We have all been there… something triggers us and causes anxiety, fear, worry, anger, or excitement. We start breathing faster, our heart rate increases, blood pressure rises, we may become tense/rigid, or feel paralyzed.
These are all reactions to a variety of stimuli. What we must learn and teach children is how to self-regulate, self-sooth, and calm down when they feel these emotions and physiological changes coming on.
Using simple centering and grounding techniques can help the child calm down and self-regulate and then the child can regain focus. There are several ways to help a child center and ground themselves. Objects that can visually and tactically help them center and be present in the moment can bring all those heightened emotions back down. Having kids dance or run is a great way to get rid of worried energy.
The Sensory Paths are full of opportunity to help kids do this exact thing. They are up moving, touching things, visually focusing, and as a result they are calming down. Breathing begins to regulate, they relax, and began to focus.
A few other centering techniques include asking the child to match your breathing pattern, ask them what it feels like in their body, and how big is their worry, anger, fear, etc. When it comes to grounding exercises, there a couple that I really like:
1. Have the child stomp the left foot, then the right foot and exhale deeply. Continue this pattern, feeling the connection of the feet to the floor. Let the child know they are stomping out all that frustration, fear, anger, etc.
2. Have the child name 5 things they can see, 4 things they can touch, 3 things they can hear, 2 things they can smell, and 1 thing they can taste. This is a great exercise to bring them back into the present moment and to focus on what is reality at that moment.
Children love to imagine and explore. By using physical activity, visual stimulation, and mental stimulation in the right way, can help children calm down, self-regulate, and focus.
Martha Hollingsworth, LPC