Last week I shared the 5 Steps to Managing Big Emotions Poster as a tool to help parents and children navigate those times when children are struggling to express their feelings in socially acceptable ways (you can find out more about the 5 steps and print a copy of the poster here). The final step of the process shared was ‘Take time to calm down’ and I promised that this week I would share activity suggestions that are great for encouraging children to channel their big emotions into alternative pursuits that allow them to discharge their feelings safely. You’ll find more about those ideas below but before I go on to talk about them I wanted to address the question that some people had about why I listed this step last and not first. Here’s my thinking behind the order of the steps;
2. Take 3 deep breaths or count slowly to 10 – these are both very simple and immediate calm down techniques that children can use to give them a little time and space to try and negotiate a solution to the problem that is occurring.
3. Use my words to say how I feel and what I wish would happen – as I said last week, “Acknowledging the big feelings recognises that these feelings are legitimate and important, and saying what they wish would happen helps to open a problem solving conversation.”
4. Ask for help to solve the problem – children will not always be able to solve a problem by themselves and asking for help involves you as a support person in the problem solving process.
5. Take the time I need to calm down – a solution to please everyone won’t always be found, and in these instances if the big feelings continue to be an issue for your child a suggestion that they take some time to calm down can be helpful (some children will even say themselves, “I need some time alone!). That is where the following calm down ideas can help your child discharge these feelings safely.So here are some safe ways that children can resolve their big feelings without hurting themselves or others.
9 Calm Down Ideas for Kids
1. Go outside and kick a ball or run around: the physical activity is a great outlet for overwhelming emotions and nature is a great healer.
2. Punch a pillow: a safe way to let off steam when managing angry or frustrated feelings.
3. Listen to music or sing a song: one for children who find music comforting.
4. Close your eyes and think of a calm place: a great relaxation tool for kids, this is one to practise with them at other times (before sleep is a great time) so that they can call on it when they are struggling with emotions.
5. Draw a picture: encourage your child to use their creativity to symbolically represent how they are feeling, “Do you want to draw me a picture of how you are feeling?”
6. Write a letter or a story: again, this technique provides your child with a creative outlet for their feelings – “Maybe you could write your brother a letter and tell him how you feel?” “Why don’t you write a story about what happened. You could even make up a new ending.”
7. Read a book: one for children who find reading provides a sense of relief from other pressures.
8. Talk to someone: I always call my husband or my mum when I am struggling with big emotions and your child might need that same exact support to process what they are feeling.
9. Ask for a hug: some children will find comfort in close physical contact when they are feeling overwhelmed.
One final point – these posters are as much, if not more, for the parent or significant adult helping the child manage these emotions, as they are for the child. They are a tool to open discussion with your child about having a calm down plan and they can act as a visual prompt to help you (the adult) as you guide your child in that moment when they are struggling to manage. You know your child best and so while this process will work well for some children, it may not work for others. In the same way, their effectiveness will depend on the age and development of your child. I share these as a tool that might just work in your parenting toolkit.
The 9 Calm Down Ideas Printable Poster
This poster works as a companion to the 5 Steps to Managing Big Emotions Poster. I suggest printing it out and talking with your children about what their preferred calm down methods are (be sure to share you own with them too). Display the two posters together in your child’s bedroom, playroom or your family living areas as a helpful prompt for working through these big emotions together.
To download your poster: Click on the poster image below. This will open a larger PDF version that you can download to your own computer. Open the PDF and print. When printing, select “Fit to printable area” (or similar) to ensure the page fits with your printer type and local paper size (these have been created at A4 size). I printed ours onto matte photo paper. Personal, non commercial use only.
If you haven’t yet, print each of the other posters in the series by clicking each image below;