We’ve got to keep calm: Some ways to keep kids in better control of their emotions

MILWAUKEE -- May is Mental Health Awareness Month -- which makes it a great time to talk about how to keep our kids healthy in body and mind. Courtney Clark with Penfield Children's Center joins Real Milwaukee to help us teach our kids how to control their emotions.

When a child is acting out or is upset, sometimes our natural reaction is to yell or react impulsively. The child is more likely to react to your response in a way that matches, such as by yelling back or continuing the behavior.

What is most helpful for children to learn a long-term skill for their behaviors and emotions is for the adult to model a calm response and to help the child re-regulate to calm.

Children need help from adults to recognize when it is time to take a step back and calm down before continuing with the situation. Rather than focusing on a "punishment" for the behavior in the moment, we instead work on building a life skill for the child to use when he becomes overwhelmed or upset.

Creating a 'calm down space' is a great way to allow your child to calm his emotions and reset instead of acting impulsively and yelling.

This space works for ages 2 and up (even adults can use this!) The goal with this space is to re-regulate or get to a calm baseline before moving forward.

It is useful for a range of concerns (behavior, anxiety, trauma).

We recommend that the parent calmly directs the child to the calm down space when the child is overwhelmed or in a high emotional state, like anger.
Kids are more reactive when they are in a state of high emotion, so wait until the child is calm to try to talk to him about his behavior (not during the calm down time), AND focus on what behavior you DO want to see in the future rather than only "scolding" him for what already happened

How to create a calm down space: Find a space in your home that is quiet and away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. This can be in the corner of your living room, in your child`s bedroom, etc. The space should be a place of comfort for your child and include items such as pillows, blankets, stress balls, coloring supplies, playdoh, etc.

This space should be technology-free. Set a time-limit for your child to cool down in the space. Remember, this is not a time-out area; this is a space to calm your child`s mind, allow him to cope with his emotions in a healthy way and ground himself with items that help release tension, such as playing with playdoh, coloring a picture, feeling the softness of a teddy bear.

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