Helping children calm down
Children need help knowing how to express their strong emotions in healthy ways. Learn some strategies to help your child calm down the next time they are feeling strong emotions.
Social and emotional health is a child’s developing capacity to experience and regulate emotions, form secure relationships and explore and learn. Social emotional health is important because research indicates children who have strong social and emotional skills do better in school and life. One aspect of social and emotional health is a child’s ability to experience and regulate emotions, often called self-control or self-regulation.
Self-control means that a child can experience their emotions and express them in healthy ways. Just as adults have strong emotions, so do children, and sometimes it can be hard for a child to know how to express those strong feelings in their small body. As adults, we want to be able to choose how we express our emotions in healthy ways—this is no different for children. We want to teach our children many different healthy ways they can express their strong emotions instead of telling them how to calm down.
Michigan State University Extension suggests the following ways you can help children express their strong emotions.
- Paper ripping. Give children a stack of old magazines, newspapers or other scrap paper and let them tear and rip until they are calmer and having fun.
- Active play. Physical activity is a great way to handle all sorts of strong emotions. Take your child outside and let them run, jump, hop, skip, throw and climb until they feel better.
- Laugh together. Laughter is a great way to prevent and relieve stress. Sing a goofy song, read a funny story or rhyme, or dance silly together.
- Quiet play. Drawing, reading or other quiet play can help calm children when they are starting to get upset or stressed out.
- Breathing. Breathing has many benefits and can be done anywhere and anytime without any materials. There are many different breathing techniques you can teach your child.
- Birthday candles. Take deep breaths and blow out. Use your finger to pretend like you are blowing out a birthday candle.
- Balloon breaths. Pretend you are blowing up a balloon. Show your child how to take a deep breath in and then blow it out. Have your child practice blowing up their pretend balloon and letting the air out by exhaling and making a “pbbbbbp” sound.
- Belly breathing. Choose a stuffed animal for each of you. Lie on your backs and place the stuffed animal on your belly. Take deep breaths so that your belly moves in and out and makes the stuffed animal move up and down with each breath. You can also dance and practice belly breathing with our friends at Sesame Street.
- Blow bubbles. You can blow real or pretend bubbles. Pretend you have a bubble wand in your hand and take a deep breath in and then blow that breath out slowly to blow your bubble.
- Blow pinwheels. You can blow real or pretend pinwheels. Pretend you have a pinwheel in your hand and then take a deep breath and gently blow on the pinwheel to make it spin.
Learning ways kids can express their strong emotions will help teach them how to manage their emotions and in turn teach self-control. Children who have strong self-control skills tend to do better in school and life. For more articles on child development, academic success, parenting and life skill development, please visit the Michigan State University Extension website.
To learn about the positive impact children and families are experience due to MSU Extension programs, read our 2016 Impact Report. Additional impact reports, highlighting even more ways Michigan 4-H and MSU Extension positively impacted individuals and communities in 2016, can be downloaded from the Michigan 4-H website.