Calming Techniques for Kids | How to help an Anxious Child
Our boys are 13, 10, and 8 right now. Just like all of you, we have had some pretty tough times figuring out how to parent them and how to respond to their emotions.
We still do. My husband and I still look at each other and say, “I don’t know what to do or say right now.”
Emotions are a big thing, for adults and for kids.
When the kids are young, they don’t yet know how to get up and get a drink of water to reset their body and their mind. That short little walk and the breaths you take on the way can be calming. They don’t know that getting a drink of water can be a tool to help you calm down.
Most of us are familiar with our body and naturally have ways of responding to stress, confrontation, or exhaustion.
If we are tired, we might go for more caffeine. If we are hungry while grocery shopping, we just might buy a double pack of beef sticks at the store and eat them both as fast as we can because we need that boost of energy to get us to the next place.
We, as adults, have learned these things over the years. Our kids have to be taught.
Our youngest is 8 years old and has been in therapy since he was about 1.5. That’s a lot of in-home therapy, trips after preschool, and in-school sessions. At one point, he was being serviced four times a week in our home.
During those early years, we watched and tried to grasp anything we could that might help us get to the next day. These are the reasons why I have put together a list of easy parenting hacks that may help you and your family as you are on your parenting journey.
5 Easy Calming Techniques for Kids
1. Epsom Salt Baths
This is a favorite “go-to” calming technique for our kids, and me as well. If they are experiencing a lot of big emotions I usually say, “I’m going to get you a salt bath ready.”
We usually use ½ cup of salt and about 3 drops of lavender essential oil. We pour that under the faucet with a few pumps of our Everyone Soap.
The epsom salt gives the body magnesium. It is calming. It helps to detox the body and get rid of the toxins we are facing in our daily life.
It can help with constipation. It helps with muscle aches. And every single time one of our kids (or I) take a bath, we come out better.
We usually get our Epsom Salt at Walmart but you can find it on Amazon, too! We love Everyone Kids Soap because of its great lavender smell and the natural ingredients. We also love using this Plant Therapy essential oil for its added benefits.
One weekend, we were all tired and struggling through our Saturday. One of our boys came up to me very gently and said, “You can take a salt bath and soak if you want to, Mom.” Ha! He knew what I needed.
Please note, as great as salt baths can be, the old adage of “too much of a good thing” applies here. After some testing, we know that one of our sons has a mutation (CBS mutation) that can hinder his ability to tolerate sulfur. With knowing that, we usually only give salt baths once a week and push the water to help with detox. The salt baths are calming and help us to feel relaxed, but we aren’t doing them every day.
2. Joint Compressions (A Calming Technique for Kids)
I first learned about joint compressions when our son’s OT started doing them during his in-home sessions. A joint compression provides proprioceptive input. It helps the body to understand the reaction from a movement that was made.
For example, if a person is tripping or seems to run into things frequently, their brain and nervous system may be getting mixed signals. They may need help working on their sensory system.
Joint compressions provide proprioceptive input that helps the body to get organized. In our case, it helps provide calmness.
Please note, I am not a therapist. I am just a mom (ahem, a just mom) who has researched and watched this help our son, and carried it on occasionally the past 5 years. Honestly, it’s usually my husband that remembers this trick and starts using it on our boy: at a basketball game, before bed, crowded environments. Joint compressions win every time. Our son becomes a puddle of jello.
All you do is take two joints, (we usually use the shoulders, elbows, wrists, and sometimes fingers) and push them toward each other. 10 times. There are protocols that you can follow, but we usually start with the shoulder, push the joints together 10 times, and then move down the arm. Here is a video showing you how we do joint compressions on our youngest son.
If you see your child having big emotions or feeling overwhelmed in an environment, try the joint compressions and let me know how it goes. I would love to hear!
Other ideas to provide proprioception are swimming, climbing, jumping, weighted pads or blankets. Sometimes we used to ask our kids to carry items from one part of the house to the other, simply because we saw the benefit on their body.
3. Distractions (The Welcome Kind)
You know that moment our kids are spiraling into a meltdown and you can see it’s coming? It could be the King of All Meltdowns. It’s always helped us to provide a distraction during these times.
Our youngest loves animals. He loves his cats, so we made photo books of our cat doing several of the human things our son would be doing: eating, sleeping, wearing shoes, getting into a car seat.
Please hear me in that it wasn’t that we weren’t dealing with his emotions, but mostly for us it was a safety concern. Our youngest would hit his head when he was upset. On the ground, the car seat, the basement floor. It didn’t matter. In order to protect our son and bring him back down to a place that he could carry on safely, we provided distractions.
Here are a couple of our books that we have in his keepsake bin. We used to pull these out in the car, at church, at home, in the store. I think he even took one to school.
We also kept (and still keep) a bin of fidget toys in our van. I think I use them more than the kids right now. Ha! When the boys were little, they first had to get into their carseat and then they could pick something from the bin. We had board books, twisty bracelets, vibrating spinning toys. Of course, there were times when they dropped the toys, which never ended well, but for the most part they were helpful!
Here are some of our favorites! These would be perfect for an Easter basket.
4. Appreciating Desired Behavior
Thanking them for doing the action we want them to do before they even do it. This was intriguing to me. I saw it played out in a therapy session. The therapist would say “Thank you for sitting,” and our son would go from a standing position to a sitting position. It blew my mind.
We started doing it for all our kids.
“Thank you for walking in the house.”
“Thank you for pushing your chair in.”
“Thank you for sitting on the couch.”
They would just stare at us like we had lost our minds and then do what we thanked them for doing.
Our boys are older now and we don’t use it as often as we once did, but still do on occasion. They know our strategy and it isn’t quite as effective, but they still get the point. Plus, it seems much more kind than constantly telling them not to do things. Who wants to hear that all the livelong day?
5. Staggered Wake-Ups and Bedtimes
We are firm believers that rest truly is best. It is best for us as parents and it is best for the kids as they grow and learn. We love to put our kids to bed. Even if they don’t go to sleep quite as early, they are reading in their rooms a few nights a week and winding down to rest their body.
Like I mentioned, we have 3 boys. A few years into this, we realized the beauty of putting kids to bed at different times. Our youngest goes to bed first. Then our middle son (they share a room), and then our oldest (who currently has his own room).
We love that our boys are getting their rest and it also helps us to have more one-on-one time with the older boys after the youngest is in bed.
Our typical routine is to put our 8 year old to bed around 7 p.m. Then, we spend time with our middle son and his bedtime is typically 8:30. Sometimes that varies. After he goes to bed, we either play cards or talk with our oldest, or he reads a book. His lights out on school nights is 10 p.m. You can imagine that he doesn’t appreciate our concern for his rest and health, but we strive on.
The mornings are similar.
The kids wake up at staggered times on school mornings or church mornings. For school, we wake up our oldest at 6:15 a.m. and he has a nice, quiet morning while getting ready for school.
Our youngest son comes out at 6:50. Sometimes he comes out a little early if he has to use the bathroom but he knows that if he is awake, we want him to rest until 6:50. If he doesn’t come out, we go wake him up. This provides a quiet breakfast and time in the bathroom for him.
Then, our middle son wakes up at 7:15 or 7:30 and does his routine.
Why do we do all this different time business? It has been a great calming techniques for our kids!
It works so well! It allows the boys to focus on what they need to do for getting out the door, and it helps cut down on the chaos of the morning. It also provides a little bit of one-on-one time with each of the kids.
We still love to have our big brunch on Saturdays (when we aren’t at a sporting event) and eat all together, but on weekday mornings and school nights, this has been a game changer for us.
Read Also: To the Mom Dealing with a Difficult Child– Parenting is hard and we all go through difficult seasons with our kids. Read these 7 real life tips for navigating challenges and finding encouragement.
What Calming Techniques for Kids have you learned over the years? I would LOVE to hear them!
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