Gentle Techniques from Around the World to Help Calm your Kids
By Dr. Harvey Skinner
After another busy day at the office you rush home through heavy traffic picking up one child at daycare and then making it to the bus stop just in time for your seven-year-old from school. When you finally get home you quickly get some snacks ready for the kids. But while in the kitchen your seven-year-old Lucas starts throwing blocks at his younger sister Emma. Entering the room, you begin speaking in a loud ‘parent’ voice to Lucas: “if you do that one more time I’m going to …”
Sound familiar? Want to try something different? Here are some simple techniques that you and your kids can easily do:
A. Re-Balance doing Helicopter Spins:
Hey Lucas and Emma, join me swinging our arms with one touching our back while the other touches our chest. Good work. Now let’s spin our arms faster and faster like a helicopter and shout ‘whirr … whirr’. Now let’s slow down, slower and slower, stop. Great. Let’s have our snack together now.
This energy exercise, drawn from ancient Tai Chi, helps to release stress, open and balance the flow of energy, and promote health and well-being. With regular practice the movements bring healing and harmony to body, mind and spirit. Tai Chi movements can be used at the start of the day, after recess, before a test to help children release stress, or at home to help calm their spirits and focus their attention.
B. Calm Down using the Tummy Balloon Game
Lately you notice that Lucas is appearing anxious in the morning. While lying in bed before going to school he says: “Mommy, I don’t want to go to school today. I don’t feel well.”
So, you sit down beside Lucas on his bed and say: “let’s play the tummy balloon game. Close your eyes Lucas and put your hands over your tummy. Now, breathe the air in slowly through your nose. Feel how your tummy is rising like a big balloon. Hold your breath for a few moments. Now breathe out slowly through your mouth feeling your tummy balloon emptying of air, letting go of all tension and worries as you breathe out. Hey Lucas – you are doing this well. Let’s play the game a few more times. Then slowly open your eyes Lucas – how do you feel now?”
Breath work is the source of life, bringing fresh energy into the tissues and cells to nourish body, mind and spirit. When we exhale, we release accumulated stress and toxins. Breathing through a stressful time is an effective way to let go of the tension that accumulates in the body. A few long deep breaths can completely change the way we feel about a situation. Feelings and emotions can be released and cleared out of the body by working with the breath.
C. Head Holding lessens Anxiety or Headaches
“Mommy I have a headache. OK Emma, let me try holding your head in a special way.” You place the palm of one hand on Emma’s forehead and with your other hand press gently at the base of her skull at the back of her neck. Hold her head for two or three minutes as she becomes calmer and calmer. “How is your head feeling now Emma?”
The Head Hold consists of simple energy contacts. One hand lightly holds the head high on the forehead; the other hand holds the base of the skull. The practice can be used for anxiety, emotional or physical pain, traumatic memories, strong feelings and emotions such as anger or fear, insomnia, or deep relaxation. The energy of the hands connects with parts of the brain related to memories and emotions. This acupressure exercise can be done with another person, our you can easily do the practice with yourself.
D. Finger Holds help us Understand and Managing Emotions
This practice originated from Indonesian cultures to release and balance the experience of strong emotions. The exercise consists of holding each finger for a few minutes to drain and balance the energy flow.
- Thumb is for grief, tears and emotional pain
- Index Finger is for fear, terror and panic
- Middle Finger is for anger, rage and resentment
- Ring Finger is for worry, anxiety and preoccupation
- Small Finger is for self-esteem and negative self-image.
Kids (and adults too) often have difficulty recognizing and understanding their feelings and emotions. The fingerhold exercise is an important practice to help children develop emotional intelligence. Through this practice they are able to identify emotional states, as well as work to release the energy of the emotion. Fingerholds may be done in many ways such as: a meditation, visualization with music, used before going to sleep to release the problems of the day and to bring deep relaxation to body, mind and spirit.
The fingerholds are an important tool for teaching emotional literacy. Here is an exercise that you can use to help your kids develop emotional understanding.
“Lucas and Emma. Let’s play a game drawing our fingers and how we feel about each one. Mommy will help you. First, let’s draw an outline of your hand and then write in the name of the emotions for each finger from the chart. Mommy will help you with the words, Now, let’s paint each finger with a color that shows how you feel. That looks great. Why did you choose the color for each finger?”
Tape the colored hand picture with the emotions in an appropriate place in their bedroom (e.g. desk, bulletin board, mirror) as a reminder of their feelings. Use age-appropriate words, explanations and examples for the feelings and emotions when working with your kids. This practice is a good way to invite children into conversation about difficult feelings or when challenging things happen. You can teach your kids to hold their finger when they are having strong feelings such as being afraid, angry or sad. Or you can hold their appropriate finger and breath calmly with your child, then perhaps having a gentle conversation about how they are feeling now.