As a parent, self-regulation is one of the most important skills you can teach your child.  Children and teens need help knowing how to bring peace and calm to their minds and bodies.

Here is a list of calming techniques you can teach your child. Remember to introduce these skills in moments when everyone is calm.

If your child is actively upset, wait to teach new skills. Instead, sit next to them and model a calming technique. It takes time and practice for your child to master these skills. Teach them often, and don’t give up in times of struggle.

Calming Techniques Your Child Can Use

Stuffed animal breathing

Have your child lie down and place a stuffed animal on their belly. Have your child take a deep breath into their diaphragm and watch the stuffed animal rise. Next, have your child slowly breathe out and watch the stuffed animal drop. This is an excellent technique for helping your child learn to take slow, deep breaths. Try practicing this technique before bed to help your child calm down and be ready for sleep.

Young child on their back holding a blue stuffed animal dinosaur toy.

Stuffed animal breathing can be very relaxing for your child.

Bubble breathing

Bubble breathing is a great technique to use outside or in the bathtub. Have your child take in a slow, deep breath. Next, have your child breathe out slowly through a bubble wand. The goal is to take a slow breath in and a slow, deep breath out, allowing for a giant bubble. Bubble breathing is a great visual. This is also a fun game. You can make it into a little contest to see who can make the most giant bubble.

High-five breathing

Have your child trace their left hand with their right index finger. Have your child start at the bottom of their thumb, trace up to the top, and take in a deep breath. Next, have your child trace down the other side while exhaling. Have your child trace their left hand while taking a deep breath when tracing up and a deep breath out when tracing down.

Move

Movement can give your child a way to get strong emotions out of their body. Have some exercises saved on YouTube Kids; your child can click on them and follow along. Turn on a song and dance together. Teach your child some mindful yoga or stretch poses. Maybe your child’s favorite electronics has a movement game your child can play. Be creative; there are many ways to add movement to your child’s day.

Read something funny

Find some funny kid books your child can read when they find themselves upset. Laughing can lighten the mood. It can be a great distraction.

Journal or draw

Have materials your child can use to write or draw out their feelings. It helps when your child can externalize what they are feeling in a healthy way.

Teach your child about self-talk and how to create healing self-talk

Share with your child that self-talk can be positive, negative, or neutral. Help your child make the connection between negative self-talk and an increase in challenging emotions.

Positive self-talk

Positive self-talk is when we say kind, encouraging, or optimistic things to ourselves. Share with your child that positive self-talk is like having a friendly voice inside your head. This voice helps you feel good about yourself and your abilities.

Example: Imagine you’re trying a new activity, like drawing or playing a new game, and it’s a bit hard at first. Positive self-talk would be telling yourself, “I’m learning something new, and it’s okay to make mistakes,” or “I can do this if I keep practicing.”

Neutral self-talk

Neutral self-talk is more factual and less emotional. It’s when you talk to yourself in a way that neither discourages nor encourages. It can help you see situations more clearly and make decisions based on facts rather than emotions.

Example: In the context of trying a new activity, neutral self-talk might be, “This is my first time trying this activity.”

Negative self-talk

Negative self-talk is the opposite. It’s when we say unkind, discouraging, or pessimistic things to ourselves. Negative self-talk decreases our mood, leaves us feeling inadequate, reduces our confidence, and makes challenges seem harder.

Example: If you’re trying that new activity and it’s not going well, negative self-talk would be thinking, “I’m no good at this,” or “I’ll never be able to do it.”

Avoid catastrophizing

When your child has a rough day, help them not to catastrophize. Catastrophizing is when you have a rough moment and think about every time something didn’t go as you had hoped. Catastrophizing can also be thinking of every adverse scenario that could happen.

Help your child recognize that this moment or day has been challenging, but things can improve.

If your child starts to think about every rough thing that has ever happened to them, their mood is going to plummet quickly. It will be hard for your child to find hope or take action.  It will be hard for your child to find neutral ground. Help your child recognize their thoughts and choose a mindful activity to refocus their attention.

Shake a glitter jar

You can buy a plastic glitter jar or make one with your child. When your child is experiencing strong emotions, they can shake their glitter jar and watch the glitter settle. Shaking a glitter jar is an excellent way for your child to take their attention away from what is upsetting them. It is surprisingly very soothing.

Star gaze

If you have a backyard and decent weather in the evening, teach your child the joy of stargazing. Have your child look into the night sky and see what they notice. How many stars are in the sky? Are there any interesting shapes? What shape is the moon? Having a new experience, such as star gazing, can help your child calm down.

Ball toss

Ball toss is an activity you can do with your child. Get a softball and toss it back and forth with your child. This can be an excellent way for your child to focus on something different. When your child is calm, tossing a ball while talking through a problem may help them feel more comfortable sharing their feelings.

Nature scavenger hunt

A nature scavenger hunt is another activity you can do with your child. Go for a walk with your child. Before your walk, pick a color or object you will look for on your walk. As you and your child walk, notice how many objects you find. You can make it into a fun game by seeing who can spot the most of your scavenger item/s. Taking a nature scavenger walk helps your child redirect their attention. Often, shifting our attention can be enough to calm us down.

Play with putty

When your child is calm, make putty together. When your child is experiencing strong emotions, they can use their putty as a fidget to help themselves calm down.

Mindful listening

Have a calming music playlist for your child. When your child is upset, they can listen to music as they dance, write, draw, or listen.

Use Your Cadey App

Teaching your child calming techniques helps your child learn how to regulate their emotions. Remember to try these activities when your child is calm. If you want to learn more about emotional regulation and help your child calm down, be sure to check out the Cadey mobile app!