Keep Cool & Calm Down

April 19, 2017

By Guest Contributor and Wise Family Clinician – Kasey Cain, Resident in Counseling

This week we are going to work on calming down and keeping cool!

It is no secret that children have big emotions and often at the worst possible time. Kids seem to be more easily upset by events that seem trivial to the surrounding adults.  For example, check out these hilarious “36 Reasons Why My Kid Is Crying.”

Having these large emotions and reactions is normal and developmentally appropriate in a majority of the cases.  To an adult, the problem often seems relatively small, but we have the advantage of a developed frontal lobe which helps with our emotional regulation. We also have years of experiences and memories to pull from and apply to helping us modulate our responses to overwhelming emotions.

Children are still observing and learning.  For those with social challenges, this process is made even more difficult because the observations, particularly reading social cues, are more challenging.

To help children learn how to handle these big feelings, we can proactively teach our kids calm-down strategies  Incorporate some of the below suggestions into your activities and routines. Then they will become familiar practices that the child can call upon in moments of distress. It is important to teach these skills proactively, as children will not be available to learning a new skill at the peak of the emotional outburst.

Movement Changes Mood: Movement can help kids calm down quickly. Practicing calming movements and breathing on a regular basis will help a child learn movements they can pull from when trying to calm down.
–  Yoga cards such as the Yoga Pretzel deck are easy to use and can be turned into a fun game of selecting a pose and practicing.

–  Cosmic Kids Yoga gets kids moving in a fun yet calming way.

–  Mind Yet has quick guided breathing activities that quickly soothe and calm.
Change in Visual Focus: If movement isn’t possible due to location or it doesn’t seem to be working, try having your child shift their visual attention. Using a calm down sensory bottle can help to shift focus and prompt relaxation.

Reading, Reading, Reading: This tip seems to make it into almost all of our topics.  Why? Because exploring stories with children is so powerful.  You can select books that are specifically about calming down or you can simply pick a favorite story, find a conflict in it, and discuss how the character resolved that conflict.  Then link the identified successful strategies to personal experiences.

When our children are in the midst of an angry outburst, we should avoid phrases like “It’s OK”, “It’s no big deal,” or “Just calm down.” Although we mean well, these statements can make the child feel misunderstood and ashamed of the emotion. These statements can invalidate the child’s experience because, in his or her world, things are clearly not okay, a really big deal, and if it was possible to calm down, he/she would.

(Content written in collaboration with Lipsett Learning Connection.)

About Kasey: 
Kasey is a mom to two fabulous daughters, loves mint chocolate chip ice cream, and loves to dance. She has very acute hearing and can track multiple conversations at once! She loves to read and take naps in her spare time. Kasey’s knowledge of the school system and best practices for teaching and learning, paired with her honed counseling skills, leaves her expertly suited to work with children and their families. She believes in the power of play and that all behavior is communication.

She holds a Masters in Education for School Counseling and a Post Counseling Licensure Certificate in Community Counseling. She is actively pursuing licensure in Virginia as a Licensed Professional Counselor. Her professional journey has included teaching, working at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum education programming department, and community counseling. Since 2006, she has worked in Fairfax County Public schools as an Elementary Professional School Counselor and as a Resource Counselor for School Counseling Services in FCPS’s central office.


Until next week, Be Wise!