4 Ways to Teach Your Kids to Calm Themselves Down

When one of my girls gets upset, she gets UPSET. I mean, it’s really intense. It’s like all the angst of a troubled teen have been crammed into 42 pounds of raw emotion.

She sobs. She screams. The veins in her neck bulge like she’s trying to lift a car. And her whole body shakes as she tries to contain the intensity of all that she feels.

Everyone knows that you can’t reason with someone when they are completely out of their mind (though we try anyways). So my natural, motherly response was be to try and help her calm down. So what would I do?

Two things:

  1. Instruct her to “calm down” (which is about as effective as telling her to do jumping jacks)
  2. Try and get her to breathe deeply, to which she would promptly respond by hyperventilating.

Yeah, they didn’t work.

But in my failure, I knew that if I could just get her her to breathe deeply then she could start to calm and reason. Filling her lungs with air would send oxygen to her brain making it function better so she could start to think more clearly.

Basically, it would take her out of her fight-or-flight mode and help her to start reasoning.

End meltdowns and teach your kids to calm themselves down with these simple and fun techniques.

Deep breathing is my jam.

Its literally how I get through days of raising 4 small kids while balancing work (and countless other stresses moms face) without completely losing my mind. Seriously, I owe my sanity to deep breathing.

So I just knew that if I could figure out how to teach her to take deep cleansing breaths, we could have less raging and more “Kumbaya”.

But I was at a complete loss. Trying to get her to breathe deeply by modeling and coaching her only made her more upset. She would take quick shallow breaths until she would basically hyperventilate. 

I needed a kid-specific approach to teaching deep breathing. 

Which is why I was beyond thrilled when I learned these 4 strategies in a Conscious Discipline parenting class (which I’m obsessed with, btw). It was like the heavens opened. They were just what I was looking for.

And they made all the difference.

No more hyperventilating. Shorter meltdowns. More control. It’s been awesome. I’ve taught all my older kids.

But here’s why I especially love them: it is giving my girls the tools to self-regulate and handle difficult situations. So whether they are at a friend’s house or at school, they have the tools they need to calm themselves when they are feeling ALL the feelings. 

While I describe them all below, it’s easier to see how they’re done. So I wrangled my older 3 girls and we made a video (below). Mind you, they were soooo over the idea of making a video by the time I actually got them into one place.

And I always feel so goofy when I’m being recorded. Nonetheless, here you go!!!

1) Balloon Breathing

This is my favorite. I actually made one of the college classes I teach do this on a day when everyone was stressed out of their minds (after which one student exclaimed “I actually do feel a lot better!”).

What you do: Link fingers above your head and take a few repeated breaths in filling your lungs, while raising your arms (filling the balloon). Then drop your hands and breathe out mimicking a deflating balloon. 

2) Drain

This is another fun one for kids. It mimics a faucet of running water.

What you do: With straight arms in front of you, and hands clenched in a fist, you tighten up everything. Then you “turn the faucet” and release all the tension as you slowly float your arms down (like water coming down) and do a long shhhhhh breath out. 

3) Pretzel

This one can be a tad tricky, but being tricky it engages the brain and helps it to calm down. Incidentally, it’s also useful for calming your mind when you are lying awake at night with your thoughts racing. 

What you do: With arms twisted, crossed, and palms together, you wrap your arms in to a pretzel. You then cross your legs. Sounds complicated right? Better watch the video 🙂

4) Be a STAR

Okay, I’m actually pretty sure this one is actually my favorite. Because I use it all the time. When my 2 year old chucks the plate of food I just made her at my head (because she can’t just eat ice cream), this is what keeps me from losing it. Before I respond, I first…

  • Stop
  • Take a deep breath
  • And
  • Relax

And then I can deal with the situation without turning in The Hulk.

While it works great for moms, it’s also a helpful strategy for kids!

Give your kids the tools.

Remember, big emotions don’t have to spiral into an entire household of frustration. Instead, we can give our kids the tools to calm themselves down when upset. We can teach them to handle difficult things. So that even when we aren’t with them, they can handle the big emotions that come with being a kid. 

What do you think? Let me know if they work for you!