When a child (or even an adult) is feeling big emotions he very much wants to feel just right again, and his body does too. When emotions take over, the body reacts, and the child might have fast breathing, feel wiggly, tense or tired that go with the big emotions. There are things a person can do on his own to calm the body and the emotions to bring him back to feeling just right. Teach a child some of these skills when he is not feeling the big emotions and practice them. Practice them yourself too. When the big emotions come you and the child can do some of these exercises to feel calm again.
- Deep Breathing. Take a breath in and count to 4 slowly in your head. Hold it for 2 counts and then breath out while counting to 4. You can pretend you are blowing on hot food to cool it off. Cup your hands in front of you, take a deep breath through your nose to smell the pretend food and then blow out through your mouth as if to cool off the food. This forces the body to pause and all the oxygen that is taken in in long slow breathes helps the mind and body calm and function better.
- Reminder stops. You can do this exercise throughout the day to help you remember to be calm and slow down. Pick something that will remind you to do the exercise such as every time you see a dog, every time you see a flower or a certain color, every time you enter or exit the house. When you see these reminder stops. Take a deep purposeful breath- count to 4 as you breathe in, hold for 2 counts and then let it out for 4 counts.
- Give yourself a hug. Cross your arms in front of you and wrap your arms around your body to give yourself a hug. Squeeze with your arms and hold it while counting to 5. Do it as many times as you need to until you feel calm. This helps you be aware of how your body feels and increases your focus and concentration.
- Arm massage. Grab your wrist with the other hand and squeeze, repeat the motion while moving up your arm until you get to your shoulder. Repeat with the other arm. This taps in to pressure points that help you relax, slow down and increase your focus.
- Hand massage. Take your thumb and push it along the palm of the other hand 5 to ten times to give yourself a little hand massage. Repeat on the other hand. This also taps into some pressure points in your body and helps it relax and slow down. It also helps wake the body up if you are feeling slow and tired.
- Finger Pull. Put one hand palm up, one hand palm down facing each other. Wrap your fingertips around each other and pull as hard as you can without losing the lock you created. Imagine that all your bad feelings are in in your fingers and you are pulling them out of your body. Pull as long as you need to until you start feeling better. This helps calm when you are feeling emotional or wiggly.
- Palm push. Place your hands together with the palms touching and push them firmly together. Hold it for 5 to 10 seconds. This helps when you are wiggly, emotional or tired.
Besides these practical exercises, guide the child in the religious teaching that he is being raised in. All major religions of the world deal with ways that a person can calm and deal with troubling thoughts and situations.
Another helpful exercise that isn’t something the child can do on his own is to give each other should rubs. A child from a traumatic past may have issues with being touched. This could help him be comfortable with comforting touch from a safe person. Rub the child’s shoulders and then switch and ask the child to rub your shoulders. It’s a good bonding tool to help you and the child feel close to each other. It also regulates the child by being aware of his body and feeling his muscles relax. If the child is not comfortable with it at first, go slow and just hold your hands on his shoulders or even the top of his head. When he is comfortable with that, you can rub his shoulders and ask him to stay with you and feel the muscles under the skin and how the rubbing feels on the muscles. Hopefully, as his comfort level grows, this will be a practice you both enjoy
References: Brukner, L (2014). The kids guide to staying awesome and in control: Simple stuff to help children regulate their emotions and senses. Jessica Kingsley Publishers. Philadelphia