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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Technique Toolbox - Teaching a Child to Self-Regulate

I work with a lot of kids, and a lot of whom come from really traumatic backgrounds. As a result, they have a lot of emotional problems and have trouble self-regulating when their world gets out of whack (which it often does).

Children, being developmentally slower intellectually, don't have the words to express themselves when they are upset. Very young children cry, and older children tend to scream and have tantrums. It's important to intervene in a child's life and teach the the very important skill of self-regulating as early as possible.

At a conference I attended, I found out one of the simplest interventions you can do with a child to get the point of deep breathing across to them. I've not used this with my 3-year-old yet, but I plan on it. So if you've got children in your novels having a difficult time calming down or stopping tears, give this a shot.

What you will need:

An index card
Laminating machine (if possible, to make the card last longer)

What you do:

Have the child draw a picture of a flower on one side. As they draw, explain that to really appreciate the beautiful fragrance of a flower, you have to inhale deeply. Demonstrate with an exaggerated expansion of your chest cavity.

Then have the child turn the index card over and draw a picture of a birthday candle on a piece of a cake. Tell the child about what a deep breath is needed to make sure the candle is fully blown out. Exhale with them, practicing to blow the candle out by directing your outward breath to the card.


Children have to learn what breathing can do for them when they are upset. Getting oxygen to the brain can help sooth the child, make them more rational and alert. Most people tend to breathe in shallow breaths, and practicing doing this automatic function with a different method is useful. Breathing through the nose gets the oxygen in faster because people tend to inhale more deeply when doing so by their nose anyway.

Children can learn to calm themselves (called self-regulation) by using this two-sided card that fits in their back pocket. Some kids get so upset that they are red-faced, crying, and unable to speak, even if they should want to. Helping them see that moments like that are the perfect time to get the card out and practice self-soothing with deep breathing.

Wordle: signature


Jessica Nelson said...

Great info! Thanks.

Misha Gerrick said...

That's an interesting idea. :-) Thanks!

Eleven Eleven said...

I already use this as a calming technique with my kids, but the card is a brilliant aide to the process, especially how they draw it themselves. Thanks for the great idea.

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