It’s normal for children to have “temper tantrums” or get physically aggressive when they don’t have the words to express what they want or need. Anger is one of the most common and completely normal emotions that all individuals experience. We are all entitled to feel angry, no matter what our age. The issue that arises is that anger frequently gets displayed through aggression in young ones. Aggression is a negative behavior, and it is important for children to learn and understand why this behavior is unacceptable. Children also need to learn appropriate coping strategies to self-soothe and calm themselves when they are overwhelmed by their feelings.
Here are some helpful tips and techniques for all ages and stages.
1. Take Deep Breaths (inhaling and counting to 5 before exhaling)
When feeling anxious, we naturally take rapid, shallow breaths or sometimes even hold our breath. Breathing slowly and deeply can help reduce feelings of stress and brings oxygen to the brain.
2. Acknowledge the Feeling and Identify the Trigger
It is important for your child to learn and recognize their feelings and how it makes them feel inside. Help them notice the physical sensations they are experiencing. Ask them questions to help them identify what triggered them to get angry.
3. Be a Role Model
Explain to your child how you deal with stress and share the coping skills work well for you. Ask your child to join you in trying one out.
4. Think Positive
Help your child deal with their feelings by coming up with an empowering, affirmative phrase or mantra they can repeat in their mind. For example, “I can do it” or “I am strong”.
5. Get Moving
Exercise can be a great way to channel overwhelming emotions. An added bonus is that it also releases mood-boosting feel-good endorphins. Have your child jump up and down 10 times, do jumping jacks, or even run sprints!
6. Enhance the Senses
Look at something visually pleasing such as pictures or videos of puppies can help shift your child’s thoughts. Have your child their wash hands and face with cold water or even hold ice to their temples. This plays a trick on the brain’s neurons, and helps it hit an emotional reset. Try listening to an upbeat song. Music can reduce anxiety and trigger more pleasant memories or experiences. Light a scented candle, or put on scented lotion. Scents such as lavender and vanilla tend to be typically soothing and calming.
Give your child positive reinforcement for trying different coping skills and working to calm themselves down. The more positive recognition and support they get over time, the more willing they will be to try these strategies when you aren’t around to guide them.