I got an email from the school guidance counselor with “calming techniques for kids” in the subject line. Oh boy. The day started like this: We pulled into the school parking lot and my third grader’s terror-filled eyes met mine in my rearview mirror. “I forgot my lanyard and mask!” It was too late for me to run home, so I told him it was no big deal—the school has extra masks. He got out of the car and seemed fine. A few hours later, I got a call that he had to go see the guidance counselor because he was crying so badly.
I don’t know what was going through his head, but clearly, something sent him spiraling. Thankfully, the guidance counselor sent him home with several calming techniques for kids for the next time he felt worried, anxious, or at a loss for control. He’s used several, and I’m not going to lie, so have I! If you have a child like mine or just want a tool to keep in your back pocket, here are some of our favorites.
1. Breathing Eights
There are a lot of great calming techniques for kids that involve counting deep breaths. Adding a shape they can trace while they breathe helps eliminate distractions. So give them a sheet of paper with a sideways eight on it and let them trace the shape of the eight with a finger. Have your child start at the center and inhale deeply as he or she traces around the bend. Once he or she gets back to the intersection, exhale. Repeat a few times.
2. 5-4-3-2-1 Technique
I can tell when anxiety is starting to build in my son. He repeats questions and starts to try to control things. This trick is great for kids with anxiety. You basically name five, four, three, two, and one thing in different categories. A common example is the senses: five things you can see, four things you can hear, three things you can touch, two things you can smell, one thing you can taste. You can also stick with one sense, like sight: five red things you can see, four yellow things you can see…
3. Rocks and Socks
I do this one on nights when I am having trouble falling asleep. Put all your strength into making fists. Try to turn them into rocks. Then release your fists, letting your hands and arms dangle like floppy socks. Do it a few times and you’ll feel the tension leave your body.
4. Get Outside
This one came in handy at a hotel arcade when my son lost his mind over losing the claw game (again). There were so many bells, whistles, and lights in the arcade that I was never going to get him to relax. So we went outside, took off our shoes, and walked in the grass. Getting outdoors in the fresh air is always good for kids.
5. Wave Breathing
This is another great calming technique for kids. Have them close their eyes, place their hands over their ears, and breathe slowly and deeply, listening to the wave sound that their breath makes. Try it! It’s pretty cool. Before you know it, you’ll forget you’re not sitting on the beach breathing in the saltwater air.
What do you do to help an anxious or overwhelmed kid? What are some calming techniques for kids that you use?