Intense emotions in kids can be frightening to them as well as to the adults around them because they don’t know how to manage them yet. Children can feel as though their anger or anxiety is in control and they are only along for the ride. It’s important for kids to recognize they can control these emotions. They just need to learn some skills to help them manage the intensity of their emotions while soothing themselves.
Simple grounding exercises can help them feel back in control through focusing their thoughts on the here and now. Grounding helps manage the intensity of the emotion. This is often done by involving our senses; sight, sound, touch, smell and taste.
Here are a few simple exercises for kids to feel more in control of themselves:
Smell the Flowers/Cookies, Blow out the Candles
Have your child take a deep breath in for a count of 4 (while imagining smelling a flower or freshly baked chocolate chip cookies), hold the breath in for a count of 3 (while making a wish) and blow out (the birthday candles) on a count of 5.
5, 4, 3, 2, 1: Have your child point out-
5 things they see
4 things they feel
3 things they hear
2 things they can smell or enjoy smelling
1 thing you taste or enjoy tasting
This exercise is flexible and can be adapted and made to be more of an I – Spy game. Your child can point out 5 blue things in the room, 4 things that are touching their body or that they can feel like their feet on the floor, soft socks on their feet or wooden chair they are sitting on, etc.
Cognitive grounding: Who, what, where, when
Have your child answer the following questions
- Who are you?/State your name and age?
- What is today/day of the week/month/year/season?
- Where are you/place, city, state, country?
- When/What time is it?
Sensory exercises: These can be used individually or in combination with one another
- Listening to music
- Squeezing a stress ball, play dough, kinetic sand
- Drinking a cold or hot beverage
- Visualizing your favorite place or toy
- Drawing your favorite place
- Sitting/laying down with a heavy (possibly weighted) blanket
- Blowing bubbles
These exercises help to shift the focus from the intense feelings to the “here and now”. Since different exercises will work at different times for kids, it’s important to practice these when your child is calm and happy to see what feels like a good fit. Practice allows your child to become more comfortable with these soothing techniques. The more comfortable your child is with the techniques, the greater the chances are that they will use them when they are upset or overwhelmed, even when you aren’t there to coach them. With practice, these skills become second nature and become part of your child’s self-soothing toolbox.
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