I’ve been getting tons of questions lately about kids and anxiety, so I decided to put together a quick kit that would help moms and dads who might need a few ideas to help their littles sooth themselves!
I heard in a training recently that parents act as a regulator for their kids. Not like Warren G (lol), but more like a thermostat. When the kids get too heated, you take notice of it, and then help them cool down. When they get a little blue, you help them feel sunnier and cheer up. When we do this for our kids, the goal eventually is for them to learn how to become their own thermostat someday. We are teaching them how to self sooth, self regulate.
It occurred to me, though, that as parents, we don’t always know how to regulate ourselves… let alone know how to teach our kids to regulate! How many times do we just say, “It’s okay, you’re fine.” or “Don’t be sad about that.” or even, “Cheer up!” or “Calm down!”?
Let me ask you this: Does that work for you? Really, in the history of the world, when have any of those things made you feel validated, seen, or helped improve your state of mind?
Those things don’t help our kids either. So, think about what you might need in a situation like that. Do you need someone to tel you, “You’re fine.”, or tell you “I can see you’re really [insert feeling here] angry/sad/hurt/bummed/bored/nervous/worried, what do you need right now, I’m here with you?” I would prefer the latter. When we feel felt, and help our kids feel seen, we are learning – and teaching – how to regulate, together. This is called co-regulating. It’s an incredibly important part of human development. It teaches us how to read social queues, how to trust others, and how to build an internal self construct which supports confidence in social situations.
There are a number of things you can do to slow things down when the kids are feeling anxious.
- Observe them, really see what they’re showing you, and hear what they’re saying.
- Take it in, don’t try and fix it or jump to turning to a positive statement
- Be with them in it. Tell them you’re there.
- Do a soothing exercise with them: these are all quiet and calm ways you can spend 5 minutes co-regulating
- Bubble pop toys are great for that, just sit quietly and pop bubbles together
- Blow windmills or bubbles (this is a covert way for them to take deep breaths)
- Play a little game, remember the ones you would push the button to move the balls in the water!?
You don’t have to be a perfect parent, you don’t have to solve all of their problems, but spending a few minutes to show them that their uncomfortable feelings are just temporary will help them learn how to change from stressed out to soothed. You can get all this stuff on Amazon for just a few bucks, I have each of these in my office and they help kids stay present while we work together through these uncomfortable moments. The more you regulate with them, the more regulated you’ll both be!