Mental health problems in children are often misdiagnosed or not taken seriously, but especially with the prolonged isolation of quarantine, it’s never been more important. Small tantrums are often the result of a minor setback or frustration that a young mind cannot otherwise deal with or express. Recurring tantrums and bouts of anger can be a sign that you need to intervene and help teach your child ways to deal with their frustration in a healthy way.
Misbehaviors and a combative attitude can be a sign of anxiety, and as COVID quarantine and social distancing continue, it’s imperative your child learns healthy ways to deal with their internal difficulties. What follows are some tips to create a self-soothing strategy for your children that will benefit them as they deal with the stress of COVID as well as everyday life.
How Do you Teach a Child to Self-Soothe
One of the most difficult yet most important things to remember when teaching your child to self-calm is that you need to limit your own intervention. As long as the child is physically safe (and other people are safe as well), you should give them the space to practice self-soothing on their own. When they realize what works, they will apply that practice in future scenarios. It might not always work immediately, but the human mind is incredibly adept at adapting and learning.
It’s also imperative that you do not try to reason with them or escalate when they’re in the middle of a meltdown. Your child will only see your words and actions as threats which will escalate the problem and make them spiral further into their anger and frustration. Again, give them some space to calm down where they and others are physically safe.
Do Not Scold or Intervene
As long as your child is not a physical threat to themselves or others, it’s best to ignore everything they do, even if it’s an unkind word. Be present but do not rise to provocation; they need to see your calming presence and ground themselves in that. If you get angry and fly off the handle because they’re saying they hate you, it will only reinforce that anger and frustration are the paths to getting what you want. Modeling calming behavior is the first step to preventing meltdowns or at the very least, teaching your child to deal with these meltdowns themselves.
Teach When They’re Calm
When your child is not in the middle of a meltdown, especially when you’re interacting with them in a happy, relaxed manner, that is the time to teach them calming techniques. Some examples of self-soothing techniques are:
- Calm down visual strategies – like meditation, teach your child to visualize a calming or happy scenario they can imagine when they’re frustrated, afraid, angry, or sad. Teach them to look inward and bring up that pleasant, calming scenario and focus on it.
- Breathing techniques include breathing in for a count of four and breathing out for a count of four. This actively calms the vagus nerve and will quite literally relax their bodies, making it easier for them to mentally choose to self-soothe.
- Calming activities for kids include anything that requires a small amount of mental focus coupled with physical focus, like coloring. Anything that, once started, becomes almost meditative is a good place to direct their attention when they’re calming down from a meltdown or you can feel one coming on.
Speak with a Professional to Help Build a Strategy
Behavioral therapy can help children who have difficulties with meltdowns and anxiety because it can be hard to deal with all of the mental stress yourself. Infinite Therapy Solutions has over 20 years of experience working with families to help foster strong emotional coping mechanisms that benefit children as well as parents. If you’re considering behavioral therapy for your family, give them a call at 210-455-3144 or contact online to find out how their programs can help your children self-soothe and deal with the anxiety that COVID – and life in general – causes.