Have you ever been so upset you felt like your body would explode? Or so nervous you felt sick to your stomach? Big feelings can affect our whole bodies. Imagine kids in the midst of temper tantrums: their whole bodies seem to get taken over by emotions. These feelings can be really overwhelming, but they’re not impossible to tame. Teaching kids to recognize mind-body connections can help them learn strategies for calming themselves down.
Practicing mindfulness allows us to tune into our bodies, noticing how we feel when we’re experiencing different emotions. Besides being used as a calm-down tool, practicing mindfulness has an amazing array of benefits. It’s been shown to reduce stress, improve mood, boost immunity, strengthen social relationships and increase focus. Sign us up!
But how do you get started? Begin by using this three-step plan:
1) Practice Mindfulness When Calm
If you want to help kids be mindful when they’re upset, they first have to practice when calm. Tell your child that our bodies are so amazing because they’re always working, even when we don’t realize it. Explain that sometimes our bodies feel differently without us even noticing. Having your children tune in to their bodies can help them notice these changes.
Model how to close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Teach your child to say: “breathe in, breathe out” with each breath. Then talk about how to do a body scan, starting at your head and noticing how each part of your body is feeling. In this video, you can watch a mindfulness lesson in a classroom (body scans happen at 6:44). The book they’re reading, What Does it Mean to Be Present?, looks like a great resource too!
2) Be Mindful When Upset
Now here comes the tough part. When kids are calm, they’re up for all sorts of things. But when they’re angry, a fight-or-flight reaction kicks in and it can be hard to think rationally. By practicing mindfulness when calm, these skills can transfer when kids have big feelings. We want mindfulness to become a regular routine that kids can use to tame wild emotions.
When your kids are upset, they might not be up for a whole body scan. And who can blame them? I wouldn’t want someone yelling “body scan!” at me when I’m really angry. Instead, start small: remind your child to focus on his breath. Gently say, “take a deep breath” and model breathing in and out slowly. If your child has practiced focusing on his breath when calm, he’ll be more likely to embrace this tool when upset. Once your child begins to relax, suggest that he does a body scan to discover where his anger is living.
3) Reflect on Feelings
When your child has fully calmed down, give him a moment to reflect on the emotions he was feeling. Ask questions like:
– How did you feel?
– Where in your body did you feel those feelings?
– What helped you calm down?
– What are you proud of doing?
– How could you act differently next time?
When you talk with your child, remember to communicate that it’s okay to have big feelings. Often times kids think being angry is bad, so remind them that everyone gets angry sometimes. Though big feelings are normal, there are positive and negative ways to act when we’re upset. Reflecting on your feelings can help you use any situation as a learning tool.
There’s no magic solution for helping kids calm down — different strategies work in different situations. Our job is to teach kids a variety of calm-down strategies so that they have a selection to choose from. Our Feelings Pack teaches kids about feelings and introduce six key calm down strategies (including mindfulness!). It includes a book, puppets and poster about feelings, plus a calm-down strategy poster and dice that kids can roll to land on strategies to try. Use the code ALLTHEFEELS to take 20% off today!