Children do not always hear us validating their feelings when they are scared, or want to make a choice between beans or broccoli, and sometimes they can't hear themselves over their own screaming. They are not in a state to make any decisions yet. Sometimes, a child needs help focusing on something that will direct their attention at an object other than what started the crying in the first place. If it gets to a point when prevention, ignoring, validating, hugging, etc. does not work, my secret weapon is breathing. I categorize breathing techniques into two areas; real, and imaginary.
All of the objects listed above are real of course, but it's how they are presented. The real objects are things you may have on hand that will help children who need more of a visual. "I'm going to blow this tissue across the table as hard as I can, how far can you blow it?" "I need help making this pinwheel spin, how fast can you make it go?" This can help get a child started on taking those deep breaths needed to calm down, and it may even turn into a game.
The objects in the imaginary column, are great when you do not have anything on hand, or a child who loves to pretend. "Watch me blow up this red balloon!" Pretend to blow up a balloon, demonstrating deep breaths as you move your hands out to show how big it is. "I'm passing it to you now! Can you catch it, or pop it?" "Now it's your turn to blow up a balloon!" Pretending to pop the imaginary balloons can be a great way for them to de-stress as well.
The imaginary food items are examples of favorite foods that can be hot. "Would you like to smell this cookie I baked?" Pretend to hold the object in your hand and breathe in. "Oooo! It's hot! Help me cool it off!" Then blow out as though you are cooling it off. You can proceed to ask the child what kind of cookie he smells, and talk about their favorite kind. These items are just examples, you can use others that may pertain to you and your child's situation.
The whole point of using these objects, whether they are real or imaginary, is to show children the appropriate tools available to them, which can help them regain control. Once this is achieved, then you and your child can move on, and maybe take some breaths for yourself!
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