01 September 2017
There are times when your child’s engine is running so fast that you can’t keep up with them! You can actually feel the intensity of their energy as they zoom around you. Most children don’t know how to regulate themselves at this young age. As adults we can take a hot bath, go for a walk or even just take a moment to breathe but our little ones don’t know those tricks yet so we have to help them by changing their environment. Many factors can affect your child’s energy level but the good news is, if you know what to look out for you can get your child back on track.
Turn off the lights! Bright fluorescent lights have the absolute opposite of a calming affect on many children and adults. Most of these lights emit a humming sound that is almost imperceptible but for many children it can be very distracting and bothersome. Natural light is always best but lamps with light bulbs and a shade or even candlelight are good options when your child seems all “lit” up!
Turn off background noise. Television and music is such a part of our lives that we often don’t realize how the underlying background noise can be a challenge. This is especially true when you need your child to focus or listen to your words. In order to get them to follow your directions, turn off the noise, then say their name. Once you have their eye contact, then give then ask them to do what you need them to do. Silence is golden!
Get them out of the crowd. Being in places where there are a lot of people talking and moving about can be a big stressor for a little person. That’s why there are so many meltdowns in Disneyland! If you are in a crowded place and you notice your little one’s energy ramping up, try find a quiet spot where they can just chill out for a few minutes. It’s always good to have a few small items in your bag that you only pull out during these times. Some one-on-one time with their favorite book, some play-dough, a special doll or even a baggie filled with small LEGOs can be a lifesaver when things get too hectic.
Be aware of your energy. Your child is your mirror. If they feel that you are stressed or anxious, they will be the same as they don’t know any other way to be. It is very hard for them to stay calm and regulated if you aren’t behaving in that way. When you feel your energy getting intense, take a deep breath, speak more quietly and just slow down in general. It will take a few minutes for your child to pick up on the shift in your behavior but stay consistent. You can even ask them to take a few deep breaths with you!
Getting frustrated doesn’t solve the problem (although it might make you feel better). Children are not great at regulating their own energy so try not to chastise them when their bodies are out of control. Yelling at your child when they are having a hard time calming down doesn’t work. In fact it generally makes it worse. The goal is to provide them with the opposite level of energy. Talk quietly, take them by the hand (even if they are swinging off of you like a monkey) and slow everything down. Then take them somewhere calm and quiet and just be. If they continue to have a hard time settling down give them a big bear hug, a little massage on their upper arms or legs or begin a quiet activity such as a book or a puzzle and ask them to join you. Be calm and act like you are having fun and they will want to join you and once they are engaged in the activity they will settle down.
Baby talk If you have a very young child, try holding them close to you, rock back and forth and then take some deep breaths so they feel your heartbeat. Humming quietly the same few notes or whispering in their ear very softly and rhythmically while you are rocking can put your little one into a relaxed state very quickly.
Be scientific Be aware of your child’s energy and notice what affects it. Experiment with different environmental factors (lights, noise, movement) and changes to your own energy when you are around them and observe your child’s response. Once you have it all figured out try to anticipate challenges before they happen. Bring the calming toys when you go to Disney or find a quiet spot to hang out if you are at a big party and they are getting too wound up.
Build independence Help your child by giving them describing words and strategies when they are having a challenge. “Your body is moving so fast it’s making your heart work super hard. Let’s see if we can make your heartbeat slow way down”. Put their little hand on their heart so they can feel it slowing as you breathe in and out with them 10 times. By helping your child understand how to regulate their own energy you make them feel more confident and in control.
Don’t forget…if all else fails, take a deep breath. 🙂