Many parents have witnessed their child or someone else’s child experience the meltdown of a life time. Maybe it happened in the grocery store because you didn’t give in to their desire to have a piece of candy or maybe it happened at home because he or she wanted a few more minutes of screen time.  No matter what, meltdowns happen and when they happen, it is no fun for anyone involved!

In your child’s defense, did you know that emotional regulation is not something we are born with? Children’s emotions can swing like a pendulum, causing your child to feel out of control. Helping our kids learn to self-regulate is one of the most important tasks that we can teach them.

One technique that can be used to teach your child to regulate his or her emotions is to have your child imagine that he or she has an internal car engine.  If the body is like a car engine, sometimes it may feel like the engine is running at a fast speed, in a slow speed, or just right.  When your engine is at a fast speed, you may feel irritable, and you may find it difficult to pay attention, to sit quietly in your seat, or get your work completed.  When your engine is in slow speed, you may feel sad and you may find it hard to concentrate, you may “daydream” easily, or feel like a “couch potato”.  When you are in the just right place, it’s usually easier to pay attention, to get your work done, and to have fun.

If you want to change your child’s engine speed from fast or slow to get into the just right feeling, there are many sensory strategies you can try.  Using your various senses can change your body’s engine levels.  For instance, you could put something in your mouth, move, touch, look, and/or listen. 

If your child’s engine is running too slow, try one of these:

  • Sour candy
  • Jumping jacks or jumping in place
  • Play tag or hide and seek
  • Listen to quick tempo music and dance
  • Spinning (just standing, in a chair, or on a swing)
  • Cold things like ice or a popsicle
  • Turn up the lights so that the room is brighter
  • Rocking
  • Running, skipping, galloping from 1-2 minutes

If your child’s engine is running too fast, try one of these:

  • Listen to a children’s audio book with a soothing voice
  • Playing with playdoh or kinetic sand
  • Turn down the lights so that the room is darker
  • Turn on a sound machine with a soothing noise
  • Eat something crunchy like carrots
  • Take a bubble bath
  • Chair sit-ups and count to ten
  • Weighted blanket
  • Sweet candy
  • Wall or desk pushups
  • Deep breathing
  • Blowing bubbles
  • Use a fidget
  • Wrap in a blanket
  • Tug of war
  • Wheelbarrow or crab walking
  • Bubble gum
  • Listen to slow tempo music and slow dance

If you would like support in helping your child regulate his or her emotions, consider having your child participate in one of our social skills groups or individual counseling!  Call the office for more information.  We would love to hear from you!

Written by: Charity Livingston