Welcome to Part 2 of my practicing calm series! If you missed Part 1 about tips for young children, you can read it here.
Older kids and teenagers are dealing with a lot of pressures these days – at school, at home, and in social settings. Knowing how to calm themselves is a valuable tool when navigating through these sometimes tricky social, academic, and personal issues. I believe that these skills are equally important for kids/teens with special needs as well as those who are typically developing.
Your child or teenager may already love music and relate deeply to it – but do they use it as a resource?
Much like practicing an instrument, learning to sing, becoming a good chess player, practicing calm (perhaps more popularly known as stress management skills) needs to be practiced on a consistent basis. The idea is that your child or teen develops strategies when they’re feeling good and calm, and then they have these “in their back pocket” when they need them.
Here are 3 simple tips to help you get started:
- Deep breathing. I have done this with very young kids all the way through to teenagers of 18+ (and adults too!). Model a deep breath in and out for your child/teen, do 5-10 together and see if anything shifts. The breath is always with us – let’s use it. Teens might roll their eyes, but if you ask them to compare how they feel before and after, they’ll probably notice a shift (use a number scale or even colors). Try slow, gentle, deep breathing or 3 energetic inhales/exhaled sighs. See if you notice a difference.
- Personalized playlists. I don’t generally recommend one type of music over another, as I really believe that we are all so different, and what works for one person or on a specific day (or moment!) is not true for another. But I do believe in personalized playlists. This can be a great activity to share with your child or teen – explore familiar and unfamiliar genres and artists. Perhaps create a playlist for different moods, or one that starts off angry (or frustrated, sad, or…) and slowly transitions to some calmer music. Sometimes you have to start where you are in order to end up where you want to be – the effect of music is not like flipping on a light switch.
- Mindfulness. Mindfulness is closely related to social-emotional learning (SEL) skills which has been in the news a lot lately. Mindfulness can look and feel different in different settings and with different people – the important part is the active, open attention on the present moment. Sometimes just listening to a favorite song, without doing anything else at the same time, can be a great exercise in mindfulness. Depending on your child or teen’s attention span, they may be able to listen to a short guided relaxation script. And yes, there is an app for that! (Actually there are many). My favorite is Insight Timer – you can begin as simply as setting a timer for 1-2 minutes (the sound of a singing bowl will mark the end and beginning) and just listening to your breath and/or the sounds around you. Try it with your child or teen. See how it feels.
I hope these ideas are helpful – please leave me a comment below, and share other ideas you may have, I’d love to hear from you! Click here if you’d like to schedule a free 20 minute phone call to discuss if individual or family sessions or parent coaching may help your child/teenager develop their self-expression and self-regulation skills.
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