Have you ever been on the way to the pediatrician’s office when you happened to mention to your kids that it’s time for their annual flu shot? Then all chaos breaks out - they start shaking, screaming, crying, and begging that you turn around and take them home right away. Children may face situations on the go that cause them great anxiety: It may be a trip to the doctor, the first day of school, a challenging test, traveling on an airplane, or going to an unfamiliar place, like a friend’s party or relative’s house. How can you help your kids get through these stressful times, so they can learn to calm themselves down?
One helpful technique in addressing anxiety is distraction. If you can interrupt the rumination and overwhelming fear, then your children can get back to a calmer, more balanced state of mind. You can teach your kids how to do this by using mindfulness, to be fully present in the moment. Mindfulness allows children to better understand their mind-body connection, and stop being reactive to thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations no matter what is happening in their environment.
A commonly-used mindfulness tactic is to have tools that trigger all of our five senses. To make it easy for you to arm your kids with tools to calm down when they get panicky, consider putting together a five senses stress-busting kit based on these ideas:
1. Touch. Feeling different textures can be an effective distraction tool. One trick is to have your child touch and feel one texture at a time. Have them tell themselves what it feels like. This way, their full attention is on what they are touching.
It is helpful to have several different types of textures to rotate through, such as smooth, rough, slimy, squishy, fuzzy, and hard items:
Buy a sensory toy kit or put together your own bag of items with multiple textures like a tissue, sandpaper, a cotton ball, squishy ball, and a piece of felt.
2. Sight. The sense of sight offers many possibilities for relaxation.
Here are a few ideas for your stress-busting kit that are easily accessible on the go:
3. Taste. Mindful eating is another popular relaxation technique. It is a good idea to be prepared with a couple of items of healthy snacks or fruits and veggies that your kids can use to focus on the taste. Teach them how to use mindful eating to direct their attention to the flavors in their mouth.
4. Sound. Music helps take your attention from fear to something pleasurable. It is a healthy distraction, allows you to be mindful, and forces your brain to shift the thinking process. Consider putting together a special playlist for your kids to listen to when they are stressed. Although slow, quiet classical music is known to have calming effects like lowering pulse and heart rate, reducing blood pressure, and decreasing the levels of stress hormones in the body, it is a personal choice to discover which music you find most soothing. Upbeat songs about happiness may work for some while soothing nature sounds may work for others.
5. Smell. As the old adage “stop and smell the roses” reminds us, fragrances can help you to relax and be in the moment. There is no scent more relaxing than lavender. The antioxidant components of lavender can lower the level of stress hormones in the body.
There are a number of methods to use lavender to soothe stress and anxiety. Here a few that you can throw in your stress-busting kit:
Sandi is a freelance writer/blogger and mother of two. She has written extensively about parenting, wellness, and environmental issues. Find her at happysciencemom.com and sandischwartz.com. Get her free course on raising happy, balanced kids at
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