I would suggest trying to make it a leisure activity first, such as the way you would listen to music, color, or take a walk. Choose one of these activities that your child already enjoys doing or you think might enjoy doing. You may have to teach them how to do it first if they have never attempted the activity.
- Take Big Breaths and Count to Ten
Teaching your little one how to take a step back from the situation and focus on taking big breaths can steer a large episode into a calming meditation. Don’t worry if you’re doubting whether your child can take deep breaths after a few attempts, it could just be they need a different way of learning how to take deep breaths. For those that need a little bit more focus on breathing or haven’t learned how to take deep breaths, you can start out by teaching them how to blow bubbles or showing them how to whistle. These strategies can help develop the method of taking in deep breaths to produce a calming effect. In the event these two are not within your allotted time frame, an easier method of having your child take “big breaths” would be to have them drink water.
If your child can sit still and feels comfortable doing so, breathing deeply is something that can support them to find calm. If your child struggles with sitting still and has too much internal energy to spare for this activity, the next suggested practice may be more preferred or a better starting point.
Promoting exercise is a great way to help your child channel anxiety and fear they may have when they have ample energy. My daughter happens to be one of those energetic children and when I’ve used the exercise tactic in the past, I’ve created an obstacle course in the driveway with chalk. If you can participate with them in the exercise, you both may appreciate the extra bonding time, which will also help to pull their thoughts away from fear and anxiety for that moment. When our body is put through physical activity, the brain takes note and the body releases endorphins – then these endorphins trigger calm and promote happiness. We recorded a video to demonstrate some physical activities! https://youtu.be/cbj1nL1WasU
- Arts & Crafts
Arts and crafts may be more your child’s preference, so if they’re feeling particularly anxious or afraid, pull out the craft box! Drawing with chalk outdoors on the driveway or sidewalk is a great way to express feelings and release some tension while getting your daily intake of Vitamin D. If outdoors is not an option, you may try painting, construction paper art, toilet paper tube crafts, or tie dying shirts.
- Talk About It
I know this sounds so easy, especially since the only items you’ll need are an open-mind, calm heart, clear head, patience, and some quality time, it is often easier said than done. Making an open space for your child to feel comfortable and safe to share their thoughts is incredibly important. If you notice them experiencing high anxiety and/or fear, take the time to have them sit down and see if they’re willing to talk about it. Talking about what they’re going through, what exactly they’re worried about, and helping them unpack and talk through their feelings may be the support they need. Help them to interpret their thoughts into more simplified terms and you’ll find that getting to the root of their anxiety/fear will begin the process of learning to cope with their problems. Soon after you’ve had a one-on-one, heart-to-heart with your child, feel free to transition into the last recommendation…
Laughter is often a great form of therapy! When a person laughs, the body is able to feel more relaxed. Laughter releases endorphins and can instantly improve everyone’s mood. Having a movie night with the family could produce laughter and a good distraction to help children feel relief from their current situation. Engaging in a fun board game and having family bonding time to create laughter together is another great route to ease tension. But a word of caution: avoid board games that cause too much rivalry, as this can steer mood down a path that won’t be helpful! Playing hide and go seek is a simple and easy way to help create laughter, as well as incorporating some physical activity!
I hope you're able to gather some of these options and see that there are multiple ways to help your child cope with any fear or anxiety that they may be experiencing. Please remember that in order for an activity to become a coping mechanism, it must first be a leisure activity that your child enjoys. It’s all about taking the time to understand what your child prefers and how to use those activities that fall in line with their preferences.
If you think you may need more help with your child, our BCBAs would love to help. Visit getanswersnow.com to learn more about us and to check your insurance eligibility.