Thursday, July 17, 2014

How to Calm a Crying Child: The Birthday Cake Trick!

This is a great little trick to use to help an upset little one gain control of their breathing and calm down.

We have all been there. 
  • A little one takes a hard fall and sustains a minor or major injury
  • A huge crack of thunder startles them
  • They realize that Mommy has left and won't be back for a while, or
  • They are taking the end of year benchmark as a formative assessment and get upset because they don't know any of the answers...

Whatever the reason is that sets our little ones off...
Here is a trick to help them calm themselves and get that control back so that we can begin to help them handle the situation.

When a child realizes that they are hurt, scared or feeling some extreme emotion, they may start to cry that big cry. The one that takes over their whole body, and makes them shake and hyperventilate.

They need US to model a calm and problem solving demeanor. If we react with an OMG panic reaction, it will only confirm to them that they are in serious trouble, and it will be much more difficult to calm them down.

Even an extreme emergency can be aided by calm, problem solving, clear minds.

Here's the Trick
  1. Use a calm, reassuring voice
  2. Hold up your index finger in front of the child
  3. Tell them that they CAN control their own breathing and that is the first step in helping them solve or handle the problem.
  4. Tell the child to imagine that your finger is a Birthday Candle on their Birthday Cake.
  5. Ask them to take a nice deep breath in and model it for them.
  6. Then tell them to S-L-O-W-L-Y Blow Out the Candle.
  7. Repeat, model and do it together until the child has their breathing under control.
  8. Congratulate them on taking control and then continue on with calm instructions for an injury or explanations for a scare.
  9. If the child is having trouble following your calm voice directions, tell them that you are here to help them, but that you cannot start to help until they are calm.
  10. Tell them that they CAN control their breathing and try the birthday candle again.

The birthday candle image already gets the child thinking about a happy time and a happy day. Your confidence in that they can gain control helps them to believe it. Your reaction to a stressful situation will very often become theirs. No matter what the situation is, everyone can better help with a calm manor and clear heads. Chatting a little about the last birthday or next one coming up can be a great calming distraction.

Don't promise to fix it, Mommy may be at work and is not coming back right now, but they can learn to develop the COPING SKILLS to handle it. A skinned knee can be cleaned out and bandaged, but we can't make it go away. Even if an emergency room visit is necessary, they can still be in control of their breathing and stay calm.

Developing coping skills is one of the best gifts you can ever give to a child.

For more thoughts about teaching Coping Skills to children see this post from my Laugh & Learn with Silly Sam blog.