In the chaos, find the calm. Over the last year we have continually had to deal with challenging situations at home, at work and at school. Each person or family has their way of dealing with the chaos and hopefully they have found a coping strategy that works for them.
In my last two columns I have shared ideas for parents and caregivers to practice being the encourager and being a better communicator. In this column I will share ideas to teach our children how to remain calm.
A series of publications was created this last year for teens who might find themselves “Suddenly in Charge” of younger children. In the following tip sheet, Tristen Cope shares some strategies for helping children handle stress: https://bookstore.ksre.ksu.edu/pubs/MF3503.pdf. If you do not have the capabilities of downloading this, call the Extension Office and a printed copy can be sent to you.
I can remember telling my child, “just breathe,” when they were terribly upset. Don’t wait until the stress level is so high that your child is gasping for breath. Practice deep breathing with them so they will be prepared to calm themselves down. Breathe in through your nose, counting to 5, then breathe out through your mouth, counting to 5, taking as long to exhale as it took to inhale. Then do it again. Place one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly and feel the air move in and then move out. Some of our preschools and schools are teaching students the “Take Five” technique. To calm themselves, the children are asked to take a breath in and then breathe out while using one finger on an open hand to trace up one side of the pinky and then down the other side of their pinky finger. Repeat this with each finger and then the thumb.
A fun activity for your child might be to make a “calm down” jar. Fill a clear jar ¾ full of water. Add ¼ cup of clear glue and add glitter or sequins. Food coloring can also be added. Then, use a hot glue gun to seal the lid on. After the seal is dry, shake the jar and patiently watch the glitter fall to the bottom. This can be very calming for a child. It can also be used as a timer. Shake the jar and then send the kids off to complete a task before the glitter has completely settled to the bottom.
By the way, these calming techniques for children also work for adults. I have a Calm Jar on my desk at work! If you would like additional information about building resiliency in your family, please contact me.
Berny Unruh is the Family and Community Wellness Agent for the Cottonwood Extension District. She can be reached at 785-628-9430 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.