With the first day of school upon us,we need to equip our kids with the skills they need to succeed. One of my favorite techniques to use with kids who feel anxious or sad is the coping “toolbox”. With the help of my kids and their parents, we work together to create a personalized stash of tools that can be used in times of stress, sadness, frustration and even boredom!

Below is a list of ten of my (and my kids) favorites. How do your kids calm down?

1. Blow Bubbles
Blowing bubbles is a great way to practice deep breathing. Have your child inhale slowly and then blow a big bubble. Teach your child that the bigger the bubble, the deeper the breath. Once children grasp the connection between bubbles and breathing, they will develop an understanding of how their breath can be used in times of stress, such as at school before a test or on the field before a game.

2. Do a Guided Relaxation
Check out this guided relaxation from Little Flower Yoga. Try a guided relaxation before bedtime if your child is having a hard time calming down at night.

3. Do Yoga
Yoga helps children learn to manage their emotions, body and mind- just to name a few. Yoga also provides an opportunity for children to move their bodies, and we know the benefits of physical activity after being cooped up at school all day. Check out this article for more information.

4. Draw a Picture
For children who enjoy art, the process of making is a powerful tool for calming down. I like to take construction paper and work with my kids to create their own sketch book. They enjoy taking ownership over which colors of paper to choose and how to decorate the front and back covers. Let this book be their private space to draw what they’re feeling. This can also be a great tool for stressful classroom moments.

5. Get Outdoors
This doesn’t require much explanation. Sunlight is good for all of us, and none of us get enough, so get outside!

6. Listen to Music
Turn on a favorite song and dance with your child. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you will both be smiling. You can also make a calm down play list and let your child have quiet time to relax and listen on their own.

7. Make a Calming Glitter Jar
Glitter jars are a wonderful way to be mindful in the moment. Create a special jar, and let your child choose the color of their glitter. Explain that they can shake their jar and then watch the glitter settle. Calming glitter jars help children learn to manage their emotions. Learn how to make your own here.

8. Snuggle
We all know that hugs feel good, and sometimes, a hug can make huge difference to a child who is feeling worried, sad or upset. Check out 9 other reasons why snuggling is good for your children (and you).

9. Talk with a Friend or Family Member
Help your child learn to talk to you or a friend when they are feeling down. It’s so important that children know the benefit of communication or “using their words” as I like to call it. Holding in our feelings only causes them to fester leading to bigger issues. Teach your kids the benefit of talking it out.

10. Write in a Journal
Writing is a great way to teach your child how to explore their feelings. They can write or draw about what they feel or try to work through problems they’re having with a friend at school. Remember to make it fun by letting your child pick out their journal and a special pen or marker they can use to write in it.

Michelle Paget, LCSW
Child & Family Therapist