Calming your kids without screens

Screens are an inevitable part of our children's lives, and likely more so than they were when you were a child. Yes, screens can provide many educational and entertainment benefits, but using screens to calm or pacify frustrated or upset children may not always be helpful to your child. There are plenty of calming strategies for kids sans screens, while creating and maintaining a calming environment.

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Calming Strategies for Kids

Stuck inside during a spring shower? Enjoy these indoor activities!

•.  Positive Movement: Doing positive, whole-body movements like yoga or simple stretching exercises can redirect an upset child’s focus and release tension. These kinds of activities promote mindfulness and help kids reconnect with their bodies, giving them a sense of calm.
•.  Hugging and Physical Comfort: Physical touch, like a warm hug, gentle back rub, or holding hands can be very reassuring or comforting for an upset child. Physical comfort promotes the release of oxytocin, the "feel-good" hormone, which can help kids feel secure and calm.
•.  Tapping: Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), or tapping, is another way kids can use physical touch to self-soothe during moments of heightened emotion. This technique works as kids rhythmically tap various points on their bodies, including the top of their head, their chin, and the sides of their hands. Studies show tapping can help with regulating stress and emotions.
•.  Deep Breaths: Teaching children deep breathing exercises gives them a simple but effective tool to manage their big feelings. Teach them to use slow, deep breaths into their stomachs to help regulate their nervous system and heart rate, and to feel grounded and calm. Practicing deep breathing with your little one can also strengthen your parent-child bond.
•.  Unexpected Behavioral Changes: Changing the environment can sometimes disrupt negative thought patterns in kids (and adults, too). Unexpected behavior, such as turning off the lights or engaging in a silly activity like jumping up and down, can distract children from their upsetting feelings and redirect their focus. Just make sure the unexpected behavior isn’t startling, which can aggravate feelings of overwhelm or fear.
•.  Splash Water on the Face or Apply a Cold Washcloth: A splash of water on the face can act as a physical reset. The sensation of cold water can help children feel present in the moment, reduce stress, and disrupt the cycle of frustration.
•.  Sensory Play: Sensory play is also great for calming an anxious or frustrated child. With differently sized containers, your child can pour water, get a little messy, and release stress while developing hand-eye coordination and fine motor control.
•. Have Quiet Time: Encourage your child to take a moment for themselves and engage in a quiet solo activity, like reading a book, drawing or coloring, or doing a puzzle away from distractions.

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And here’s an important thing to remember: it’s never better to have your children on screens than not. It’s usually better to skip the screens. But screens are also unavoidable in the modern world. If you choose to have your child watch something to calm down, then turn to a high quality program, like Daniel Tiger, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, or Sesame Street.

Screens can serve as valuable tools from time to time, but relying on them as the primary way to calm frustrated or upset children may not always make things better. Instead, turning to calming activities for kids can help kids learn a more whole-body approach to dealing with big feelings. These strategies can help children manage their emotions in the moment while also contributing to their long-term emotional well-being and resilience. Embracing a variety of calming techniques helps us to respond flexibly to the unique needs of our children. With a toolbox of screen-free strategies, children can navigate their emotions, setting the stage for a healthier and more balanced approach to life's challenges.

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