30 Sep Tips to Help Your Child Tame Their Temper and Calm Down Quickly
When your child is struggling with intense emotions, it can be challenging to help them feel calm and in control. Intense emotions often escalate quickly, making it difficult to use problem-solving skills during a challenging situation. Parents, and individuals working with children, often forget that the developing mind doesn’t process as quickly as an adult brain, thus making it hard to self-soothe and regulate strong feelings.
This isn’t their fault. As adults we need to guide them and model healthy coping skills for managing anger, sadness, anxiety, and other emotions that can cause them to feel out of control.
Help your child calm down quickly with TIPP skills
When you help your child regulate emotions, they are able to think more clearly and solve problems. However, we need to practice these tools when a child is NOT activated. Experimenting with new skills when a child, or adult, is in a regulated state of mind allows the brain to remember how to use it when crisis, or challenging emotions, emerge.
When learning these skills, ask your child how they feel before and after. This gets them to slow down and check in on what they are feeling in their body. Have them rate their stress, anger, anxiety or overall emotional state on a 10-point scale–10 being the highest and 1 being the calmest.
Have them hold ice or an icepack for at least 30 seconds, or use cold water to wash their hands or splash their face to help them calm down quickly. This will cue the mammalian diving reflex, which is a natural occurrence in all mammals and is triggered when our faces are under cold water. This reflex causes our body chemistry to change—heart rate drops down immediately and the parasympathetic nervous system is activated prompting a relaxation response. Make sure to keep water above 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
I: Intense Exercise
Try to have them engage in intensive exercise for two to five minutes. Set a timer for two minutes and ask them how they feel before and after. Have them sprint down the hall, do jumping jacks, run outside or run up the stairs. If you have access to an indoor trampoline or stationary bike, those work well too. The fast movement can get the intense emotions out of the body and regulates the nervous system. Short bursts of exercise naturally release endorphins, which will help combat sadness, anger and anxiety.
P: Paced Breathing
Using diaphragmatic breathing and counting to help your child distract from the intense emotions helps regulate their nervous system. Placing one hand on their belly, have them breathe in while purposely pushing their stomach out. This may feel odd at first, but this is how the Vagus Nerve is activated. Doing a few rounds of breathing in through their nose and out through their mouth, slowly, can naturally calm down the brain and body. Let them go at their own pace at first, then prompt them to breathe in for four counts, hold for four counts, and breathe out for four counts.
P: Paired Muscle Relaxation
It can help if you add muscle relaxation to paced breathing. While breathing deeply and slowly, deeply tense each of your body muscles one by one. Start with the feet and move up the body. Notice this tension, then breathe out and let go of the tension by completely relaxing the muscles. When practicing this with your child, have them choose a few spots on their body that they’d like to try. If an area doesn’t feel good or is uncomfortable, move on to a different part of the body. Many kids find tensing their fists and slowly releasing to the count of four or five is soothing, as well as pushing their heels or toes into the ground and releasing for the same amount of time.
The TIPP skills may not work immediately, but, as I mentioned before, if you introduce these skills when your child is in a more relaxed state, they can help to build up their ability to regulate strong emotions, manage difficult situations, and generally feel better.
Authored by: Emily Roberts, MA, LMHC
These skills are derived from Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). Emily Roberts, MA, LMHC, is intensively trained in DBT and recommends practicing these skills for children who have trouble regulating their emotions. It can take some practice and in many cases it helps to work with a DBT therapist to ensure that you are engaging in the skills correctly. Part of DBT can include sessions to focus on breathing exercises and progressive muscle relaxation to help gain mastery of the skills. To learn more about DBT and our therapists click here.