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Teaching children how
to calm themselves
is an important step in

Helping children develop calming rituals is an important life skill --
and can protect your sanity.

For very young children, designate one chair in your home as the "cuddle chair." The only thing you can use the chair for is cozy cuddling (never use it for a "time out" because this will give it a negative association). When children need to calm down, suggest a visit to the cuddle chair. Also give children the freedom to ask for "cuddle time."

For older children, try a "Freeze" game ritual. When kids are running around or screaming, make it a practice that when you shout "Freeze!" everyone -- children and adults -- has to freeze in place. Then have a regular sequence of steps to calm everyone down. Say "Stand Tall" and everyone goes from their frozen position to standing straight. Say "Touch Toes 3 Times" and everyone touches their toes 3 times. Say "Reach for the Sky" and everyone stretches toward the ceiling. Say "Sit and Relax" and everyone either sits down in a chair or on the floor. You can come up with whatever exact steps you like. The important thing is to have a series of steps and use the same series of steps each time. Then children know what to expect and will hook into the ritual.

A bedtime calming ritual can also be useful. Try "Sleepy Fingers." Start by making a big deal of yawning and stretching. Speak softly and slowly: "I'm so sleepy. And you know what? Your fingers are sleepy, too." Explain, "It's time to put you and each of your fingers to bed." With your child's hand open, bend each finger over gently -- one by one, starting with the little finger -- saying it's time for each one to go to sleep. Comment on each finger: "This is the littlest one and he has to go to bed first because he needs the most sleep" and "This is the ring finger who has lots of work to do wearing heavy rings. He's all tired out!" and "This is the tallest finger. Do you think he'll fit? Let's try." and "Now the finger that does all the pointing. He's been very busy today too." Then say, "Oops, we're missing someone." With a surprised and concerned face say, "Well, we need to make room for this fella. Move over everyone!" Uncurl the fingers and slip in the thumb. With the thumb all tucked away under the fingers, grasp your child's hand in both your hands, say "Good night everyone!" and give the hand a kiss.

Children should also have an anger ritual, a series of steps they go through whenever they feel angry or frustrated. Here's an effective five-step ritual for older children:

1. Breathe: Focus on your in-and-out breaths. Breathe deeply. This helps take your mind off other physical reactions in your body for a moment and focus on only one part of your body. Count five in-and-out breaths.

2. Feel: Now, where do you feel your anger? Each person feels anger in their own unique way. Do you feel your anger in your stomach? Your neck and shoulders? Your chest?

3. Observe: Once you know where to look for your anger in your body, take a moment to just observe it. Say to yourself, "yes, I'm feeling angry." This allows you to take a step back, acknowledge the anger, and have an opportunity to make a choice about it rather than simply react to it.

4. Relax: Move your shoulders up and down, roll your neck, wiggle your arms. Count five more in-and-out breaths. It's okay to be angry. Just let it flow through your body.

5. Think: Finally, tell yourself your mind is the most powerful part of your body and now you're going to let your mind take over. You're not just going to react, you're going to think. What do you choose to do to handle the situation you're in?

© SV Bosak, www.legacyproject.org




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