You are doing your absolute best as a parent. You know that it’s best not to rise to it when your child pushes your buttons, or when their stress spills out all over the place and makes you feel stressed too.
The number one priority is calming your own fight or flight response. If you can calm your nervous system you will be able to think clearly and rationally. This will lessen the chances of escalating the situation.
Quick Tips for Staying Calm With Your Child
1. Take yourself to a CALMING SETTING IN YOUR MIND just for a few moments, to reduce the emotional impact.
2. Is your child having an outburst or a meltdown? Pretend you are dealing with a child who is 5 YEARS YOUNGER than they actually are. They have lost control in the same way, even though they are expressing it differently.
3. CHECK YOUR JUDGEMENTS. Are you making assumptions? E.g. “My child should be able to stay calm”, “My child is choosing to behave like this”.
4. DETACH YOURSELF from the situation. Imagine you are a kind stranger trying to help. Remove your personal feelings.
5. INSTANT RE-FRAME How can you re-frame what’s happening to give you a broader perspective? What alternative thoughts can you use, e.g. “He’s very over-tired”?
Physical Actions That Will Help You Stay Calm
Did you know that you can quickly calm yourself by changing your body language, posture and facial expression? These actions send calming signals to the brain which stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system. This tells your brain you are safe.
- SOFTEN YOUR BODY to give calm signals to the brain and to your child. Bring shoulders down, un-clench arms, legs and fists, soften your jaw.
- DIFFUSE heightened emotion. Sit down. Talk in a soft voice.
- Take 3 VERY DEEP BREATHS in through your nose for 5 seconds and out through your mouth for 8 seconds, to “reset” and send a safety message to the brain.
- Is your child having a meltdown? If possible SIT QUIETLY for a few minutes next to your child. Sitting alongside is less confrontational than opposite.
- STEP AWAY for a few moments until you your own fight or flight response has retreated and you feel in control again. e.g. step outside and take some breaths.
Do you want to know how to help your child calm their anger or stress more quickly? This article about how to calm an angry or panicky child highlights five powerful techniques.
Do you have a tween boy? Our article on Parenting Tween Boys will help you prioritise and hone your parenting skills.
Dr Lucy Russell is a UK clinical psychologist who works with children and families. Her work involves both therapeutic support and autism assessments. She is the Clinical Director of Everlief Child Psychology, and also worked in the National Health Service for many years. In 2019 Lucy launched They Are The Future, a support website for parents of school-aged children.
Through TATF Lucy is passionate about giving practical, manageable strategies to parents and children who may otherwise struggle to find the support they need.
Lucy is a mum to two teenage children. She lives in Buckinghamshire with her husband, children, rescue dog and three rescue cats. She enjoys caravanning and outdoor living, singing and musical theatre.
Are you the parent of a 6-16 year-old? Join They Are The Future’s free Facebook group for regular tips on supporting teens and pre-teens with their mental health! Join the group: Parent Tips for Positive Child Mental Health UK.