The holiday season is coming up soon and what an exciting time it is! Family members coming into town, lots and lots of presents, music, and activities. For some children, however, the excitement of a holiday is too much. So, finding ways to manage holiday stress in kids is important. When children feel overwhelmed and often overstimulated, their behavior deteriorates. So, taking the time to be calm and to calm down is critical.
Sometimes when children ‘misbehave’ and become emotional, they are not testing the boundaries. In other words, regulating feelings and emotions is the issue. These children would behave well if they could.
Managing Stress Around the Holidays
Used properly, calm down time can be a very helpful technique which can teach your child that removing yourself from a situation and taking time to calm down is a positive thing to do.
We have all seen what can happen when a child, or adult for that matter, becomes extremely upset and angry or frustrated and out of control. Toddlers lose control when they are having a tantrum. The same thing can happen with older children, although this behaviour is usually referred to as a ‘meltdown.’ How to calm angry kids is a whole other article!
Of course, by the time your child has ‘lost it’ it is too late. You have to accept that fact.
What is the point of calm down time?
The aim of calm down time is to teach your child to recognise when they are in danger of being overwhelmed by their feelings, and to go to calm down time before things get out of control.
Your child won’t be able to do this by themselves straight away without support from you, and you should introduce them to calm down time at a neutral time.
Talk about it with your child, and explain that calm down time is not a punishment; you are introducing it because you understand what it feels like for them when they are upset and angry, and you want to help them to feel better.
Explain that you will suggest they go to calm down time when you see them becoming upset about something, and talk about some specific situations where this might happen. There will be no specific time limit, they might only be there for five minutes, and it is up to your child to come out when they want to.
How to Implement a Calm Down Time
Choose a Spot – Calm down time should be a quiet area somewhere which ideally you can leave set up.
Name the Spot – Give it a name, maybe ‘the calm down corner’ or ‘the chill out den,’ get your child’s input when you are setting it up; it could be in your child’s bedroom, but only if that is the place they choose.
Help Your Child Understand – Calm down time is not about being ‘sent to your room,’ or ‘to sit on the step.' It should not be seen as a consequence for misbehaviour.
Make the Spot Inviting – The calm down space should be comfortable for your child, perhaps with a beanbag, some cushions and/or a nice soft blanket or rug.
What to Include in a Calm Down Space
There should be something in the space for your child to do if they wish, maybe some books, a basket of toys or a CD player so that they can listen to stories or music.
This article – Ideas for a Peace Corner – includes great suggestions.
Mind jars (a jar filled with glitter glue and water, that you can shake up and then watch the glitter settle) can be useful for young children and can help to distract, while also having a relaxing effect.
If you have a child who gets easily frustrated or angry, introduce calm down time and other calm down strategies whenever you see emotions beginning to run high. Better yet, schedule a rest time into your day as part of your daily routine.
And don’t forget: Be a role model.
When your children are driving you nuts, and it has all become a bit too much for the grown ups tell your kids you are going to ‘calm down time.'
If you want your child to learn a particular behavior there is no better way than demonstrating that behaviour yourself.
A bit about the author:
Jane Rogers lives in the UK and is founder of The Cambridge Parent Coach. She is experienced in running a number of highly regarded parenting courses, and writes and runs her own workshops for parents. Jane is passionate about Positive Parenting and her aim is to share the ethos and ideas of this style of parenting in a way that is simple to understand, and easy to put into practice.
Jane’s two parent workbooks: ‘How to Encourage Positive Behaviour so You Can Enjoy You Children’ and ‘How to Use Positive Discipline to Improve Your Child’s Behaviour’ are available on Amazon.