Adopting calming strategies for different age groups vary greatly—what may be effective for an infant is in stark contrast to what will work for a toddler or school-going child.
Most calming strategies are age-specific and cannot be used interchangeably. Setting the practice to identify stress or anxiety and learning to cope with them from young ages create a generation that would be better equipped to comprehend and address mental health issues.
Let’s examine how calming strategies can be applied and taught across age groups.
Calming strategies for babies
A fussy baby’s cries are enough to make his/her caregiver pull out their hair in woe. You’ve crossed off the usual suspects: baby is fed and burped, it is in a clean diaper and in a comfortable environment. But it is still crying. Here’s a list of calming strategies which may soothe them:
Partaking in some sort of movement has the tendency to calm a baby down. If you’re seated or lying down when the baby is crying, try standing up and walking around to calm them down. Maybe a change in surrounding may do them some good too, so step out of the house if you must. Try rocking them- the ‘elevator motion’ works wonders on calming a fussy baby!
- Remove unnecessary stimulation:
Being overstimulated may irritate a baby so try dimming down the lights or switching screens off to calm them down.
- Make them feel comforted:
Swaddling the baby is one way to make them feel comforted and secure, lulling them to sleep. ‘Kangaroo care’ is another way to make them feel more restful. In some instances, just putting a baby to bed may make things better.
- Calming sounds:
The most common reflex for any parent to calm down a crying baby is shushing them. If that doesn’t work, pull out the big guns by mimicking the sounds they were used to inside the womb: white noise most often does the trick!
Calming strategies for toddlers
Tantrums and meltdowns in toddlers are quite the nightmare for caregivers. Finding a calming strategy that works, without having to resort to a screen, may seem challenging—but it is not impossible.
- Ignore them:
As a parent, it is important to keep your cool if a toddler tantrum ensues. Using calming strategies for adults may help! Children generally model their caregivers’ behaviour. Try getting them to tell you what is upsetting them: if they’re hungry, a snack may be your saviour. However, if it isn’t a request you can oblige, ignoring them or distraction would be the best strategy to calm them down. Picking up another activity to keep them occupied instead of indulging them in a discussion is the better way to calm a toddler down. Do not reinforce it by giving into a tantrum; it only propagates the behaviour.
- Identify potential tantrum triggers:
Most often there is a pattern behind toddler tantrums, and it would do parents and caregivers well to identify triggers. This allows them to plan ahead of time to respond or behave in a manner that can prevent an outburst.
Experts suggest that activities like reading a book, indulging them in some form of sensory play, painting or handing them a busy bag filled with activities may help in keeping them calm and preventing a toddler tantrum.
- Calm down corner:
Some parents also believe in converting a portion of the toddler’s room into a ‘calm down corner’ where they head mid-tantrum, equipped with sensory play items and stress balls, making it a relatively demure alternative to the time-out corner used for disciplining children.
Calming strategies for children
Childhood challenges got the child down? Let’s look at a few of the calming strategies that can be implemented by teachers in the classroom and at home by the caregivers. They work well for those aged up to 13 years of age.
- In the classroom
As mentioned above, there is a need to include topics on how a young child could relax when they feel stressed. It begins by teaching them to identify what happens to them when they get triggered and what they could do to address that.
- Create activities teaching children calming techniques and convert it into a classroom assignment or game. Teaching young children the ‘5-4-3-2-1 grounding technique’ through gameplay may do them unexpectedly well in the long run. This technique is even used to teach adults to ground themselves during a panic attack.
- Get pre-teens interested in books and movies that speak about mental health issues in a sensitive light and do not downplay these issues.
- Teach them how to do various deep breathing techniques during PE classes.
- As a teacher, if you see a potential red flag that may need medical intervention, do not hesitate to bring it up.
- Allow every student to have access to a licenced counsellor to speak to during school hours for when they feel stressed or anxious.
- At home
For an anxious child, try out the strategies listed below to calm them down.
Introduce yoga to your kids and get them to get into a ‘downward dog’ or yogi-style inverted position when they feel anxious. These positions help reset the autonomic nervous system and calm them down. Even jumping in place or doing jumping jacks will help.
If they like skipping rope, set a timer and get them to jump rope for a few minutes. These activities help burn off the glucose triggered by the body to deal with the ‘fight or flight’ response. Some people even swear by just pushing against a wall to evoke a similar result.
Visualisation is a powerful tool that can be used by children and adults alike as a calming strategy. Guide your child to close their eyes and visualise a quiet place that is calming to them. Paint a picture with your words and get them to take this journey along with you. If painting a picture with your words is not a strong skill of yours, get some paper and paint together.
- Breathing techniques:
Blowing bubbles is a great way to subtly encourage children to calm themselves down with breathing. Blowing out a candle is another way to encourage their behaviour (when you feel like getting them to breathe into a paper bag is too extreme). Teach your child a ‘secret’ mantra or phrase for them to repeat to themselves in their head as they breathe deeply.
- Let it out:
Children may not be the best at expressing how they feel, but give them an opportunity to vent verbally or by writing a journal or a diary. This approach allows them to process their emotions better and get a handle over it.