Learning how to manage emotions is part of growing up and let’s face it even as adults we often find it difficult. I’ve put together some tools that I use regularly in my kids yoga classes and with my own children who are three and four years old.
I’m not saying they will dissolve every tantrum magically into peace and harmony straight away but they will help your child to become aware of their emotions and learn how to manage them. Every child is different of course and what works with one child might not work for another.
They also might not work all the time so give them a go in different situations. If your child is angry, give him or her some space to begin with. If your child is upset and finds it hard to calm down you might find that one or all of the tools below might work very well!
How to help your child to calm down
1. Breathing Together
Breathing exercises have been proven to have a calming effect on the nervous system. We are putting our body in a parasympathetic state, sending a signal to the brain to turn off the sympathetic system or the “fight and flight response” which triggers anxiety and stress.
If you are familiar with yoga you will be familiar with breathing exercises, like nadi shodana or ujjayi breathing. For children we want to keep the breathing exercises as simple as possible so simply counting the inhale and exhale will do the trick.
Do the exercise with them and do them really slowly. Encourage them to inhale through the nose and blow the air out through the mouth. Slow down the exhale even more than the inhale.
What to say:
“Let’s breathe together and see how we feel afterwards.
Inhale – exhale – 1
Inhale – exhale – 2
Inhale – exhale – 3
Inhale – exhale – 4
Inhale – exhale – 5”
Ask them how they feel afterwards. They might want to talk about it or might have moved on to other things already! And if they don’t want to do the exercise then don’t worry! The very least it will do is calm YOU down to help your child manage through the situation.
2. Use a mudra (or hand exercise)
A mudra is a hand gesture that we often use in yoga to seal or channel the energy in the body. The following mudra will activate different parts of the brain and help for clarity and focus and for younger kids they simply work as a distraction and a little challenge!
What to say:
Bring the thumb and first finger together – say ‘peace’
Bring the thumb and middle finger together – say ‘begins’
Bring the thumb and ring finger together – say ‘with’
Bring the thumb and little finger together – say ‘me’
Now lets try it with both hands together. Peace – Begins – With – Me
Repeat 2 more times
You can replace the words with any other positive message that suits the situations like for example “I feel happy now” or “I can do it”!
3. Rainbow Relaxation
This is a lovely one to do before bedtime, especially when it’s been a busy day and your child finds it difficult to settle. I learned the Rainbow Relaxation during my teacher training with Rainbow Kids Yoga but it’s also featured on the Yoga Pretzels cards which I use a lot in my classes.
I have slightly adjusted the scrips but feel free to use your own words. I would keep it really short for younger kids but for older kids from about six you can certainly do a longer guided relaxation!
What to say:
“Lets take three deep breaths together. 1 – 2 – 3
Close your eyes and notice how your belly moves when you’re breathing in and out. (pause)
Now imagine that you are somewhere outside in your favourite place. There are beautiful flowers everywhere and butterflies flying in the air. Can you imagine all the colours that you see? Can you imagine the lovely smells of the flowers and the fresh air? (pause)
You are walking a long a peaceful path and you come to a big tree. Sit under this tree and look up into the sky. You will see a beautiful big rainbow. Have a look at all the colours:
Red: you are strong and you are safe
Orange: you are happy and playful
Yellow: you are proud and confident
Green: you are kind and generous
Blue: you are honest and truthful
Indigo: you are clever and creative
Violet: you are a good friend”
When I do this relaxation with my kids I usually combine it with a little massage. So when you say the different colours massage a different part of their body starting from their feet, the legs, tummy, chest then stroking their face and head.
I really hope you found these tools useful. Let me know in the comments if you’ve tried any of them or maybe you’ve got others that work really well for you! I’d love to hear from you!