No one needs to be told that we live in a stressful, often chaotic, unsettling world today. We know it affects us, but maybe don’t give a lot of thought to how it affects children. Sure, kids have the pressures of school, tests, and getting along with peers, but we don’t always realize that the stresses parents, teachers, and other adults in their lives experience also greatly affect them. They absorb so much of what is going on around them, and if they are constantly living in a hectic environment, constantly “plugged in”, it’s going to affect their emotions, school life, and relationships.
I recently listened to an interview with Jeff Goetz, a senior trainer and education specialist with the non-profit institute of HeartMath, who consults with college and school professionals, therapists, and parents to improve classroom climate, child behavior, and academic performance. He talked a lot about the idea of self-regulation, the ability to control and direct one’s feelings, thoughts, and actions, and offered some basic tips to help children self-regulate
Here’s a brief summary: Try to bring calm and composure into your daily life. Kids are affected by our hectic lifestyles, and we need to start to value calm and model it for them.
Disengage from technology – breathe.
Slow down on the inside. Give your brain a break and allow your emotions to settle down. This helps us to gain perspective and gives our kids a model to follow.
Make sure kids are participating in games, clubs, and/or sports. This gives them a great opportunity to learn to regulate their behavior and builds growth and resiliency. Structure and predictability are important to the calm and well-being of children. They give security.
Have crucial conversations. Slow down. Ask children about their day – change the questions, don’t always ask “How was your day?” Ask “What was the most amazing thing about your day?” or “What was the most creative thing you did today?”
Try to be a good listener.
Share your experiences.
Anticipate transitions. Allow prep time to plan and anticipate.
Identify times when kids are most reactive and impulsive. Teach breathing techniques when kids are calm so they have a tool to use when necessary. Help them to see that they have a calm place they can go to inside themselves when they need to.
Spend plenty of time in nature – it is restorative and has a calming effect.
Seek help from other parents, grandparents, and professionals when necessary.
Following some of these tips and making sure we know how to self-regulate brings a lightness and buoyancy back to our lives. Life shouldn’t just be a daily grind for our kids or for us. Play happy music, sing along, paint a picture, lay on the grass and look at the clouds, plant flowers, lighten up and enjoy life. You’ll be helping yourself as well as your kids!