Ultimately we want our children to grow up to feel confident in every way and we want
them to feel prepared to help themselves when big feelings overwhelm them. In this piece I want to present tips and effective ways for helping children self soothe.
Emotional intelligence can be defined as the ability to:
- Identify emotions we are experiencing
- Express emotions in ways that are healthy, effective and socially acceptable
- Manage the sometimes overwhelming experience of emotions
- Have empathy for others
A big part of helping children develop emotional intelligence is helping children to self
soothe. But before they are able to self soothe it’s important for parents to understand
the importance of co-regulation. Very young children most often need a caring adult to
help them be soothed before they are able to self soothe and that comes through that
process f co-regulation where a loving adult brings calm to the interaction to be soothed
together aiding the child in feeling more confident that she can trust help is there when
she needs it.
Here are some ways to help children self-soothe:
- Be consistently and lovingly responsive to your child’s needs. The more your child hears, sees and feels that you are hearing and responding to his needs the more secure he will feel in attempting to soothe himself in time.
- Model self-soothing for your child, setting an example. You can narrate your experience with demonstrated efforts such as, “Whew! I am feeling so frustrated right now. I need to help myself feel calm. I’m going to go over here and sit in this big, soft chair and do my calming breath.”
- Truly be a force of calm yourself. Practice relaxation and calming techniques regularly on your own so you will be well prepared to quickly find calm when your child’s big feelings get the best of him. Try meditation, gentle yoga, guided relaxation recordings, and mindfulness exercises regularly.
- Teach your child the birthday cake breath and practice it when she’s feeling happy and settled regularly. Make and bake an invisible birthday cake together. Put the candles in and light them. Invite your child to make a wish and join you in first smelling the delicious fresh baked cake and then blowing out the candles. Once practiced, you can remind your child that doing this birthday cake breath really helps us to feel calm again when we get really sad or mad.
- Have plenty of sensory options available for soothing. A bin or a basket you might call the calming kit with a silky scarf, a very soft snuggle blanket, a container filled with soft sand with which together you can slowly rake your hands through together, some headphones and a device with relaxing music cued and any other items that are soothing to hold, touch, smell, and hear.
- Create a calming corner. If you and your child together create a very special tent with soft lighting, soft pillows and blankets and special stuffed buddies this can be a place your child can choose to go to self soothe. Make it appealing and refrain from having it be a place you send the child to. It’s important for the child to feel a sense of connection with this space and feel it is her own to choose when she needs it.
If you need support in helping yourself and your child find calm, please contact me to schedule time with me as I help parents and children through parenting support and play therapy.