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Your youngster's bedtime passed 30 minutes ago, your grasp on sanity is tenuous at best, and he's still bopping around the house like a wind-up toy with no end. To make matters worse, his body knows he's overtired, which is making him cranky and loud. You can feel the temper tantrum storm brewing. At this point, your child probably doesn't have the ability to calm down on his own, so it's up to you to employ some soothing activities to help him get back to a relaxed state. Whether it's a temper tantrum in the grocery store, a hissy fit at nap time or a meltdown at bedtime, an arsenal of soothing tactics can get you through tough situations.
The day in the life of a young child can present a multitude of stressful situations. Maybe her brother painted on her brand new dress, or she dropped her craft project on the floor. The kid at preschool wouldn't share the blocks, or she missed an afternoon nap and is headed for meltdown. If she's angry at her brother, take her for a stroll around the neighborhood because physical activity can help soothe her emotions. Music can be soothing when she's feeling frazzled. Just stick to something soft or classical and save the heavy metal for another day. Imaginative play can help provide your youngster with a sense of control which lets her soothe away her anger or stress. Another way to help soothe your youngster is to give her something else to focus on. Pull out a puzzle for the two of you to work on, let her draw in a coloring book or make a picture with sidewalk chalk outside. Now she's focused on doing a good job on the new activity and less concerned with a previous upset.
When you first think of giving your youngster a timeout, images of punishment and discipline probably come to mind. However, the timeout is not meant as a tool for punishment, but rather an opportunity for contemplation and calming. If your kiddo's been in a riled up situation or ended up in a negative exchange with another child, the timeout should be an opportunity for your child to relax, reflect and recollect his calm. Think of it more as "Take a break" and not "You're in timeout." Don't send your child away into a separate room, but rather follow him to a quiet spot and talk calmly about the situation in a soothing voice. Rub his back, encourage him to take deep breaths and stay with him until he's feeling soothed and regenerated. This opportunity to relax not only soothes your child now, but helps him to develop the skills he needs to stay calm through tough situations in the future.
Your child's wound up from the excitement of the day, and now it's suddenly time for it all to end. Often, kids can't make this transition in a single leap; they need your help to get from an excited to a relaxed state, and they need you to keep the transition consistent night after night. According to Dr. Whitney Roban, a Pediatric Sleep Specialist, Clinical Psychologist, and Sleep Coach, "Children are creatures of habit and thrive on routines and consistency. It helps them feel calm, safe and secure." She says that "Keeping a very consistent bedtime routine every night is calming to a child in that it allows children to feel a sense of control over their environment in which they know exactly what is going to come next at bedtime." Just knowing that the bedtime routine is coming will help to soothe your child as it maintains the routine consistency that calms him. Roban recommends beginning the routine by readying the room for bedtime together to make your child an active participant and then following a brief 15-minute routine. Let your youngster choose two books to read together, then sing her favorite song and end off with hugs and cuddles: "Implementing and sticking to a brief and consistent routine when your children are young will allow for a calm and soothing bedtime experience."
Children with sensory disorders, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) pose a different challenge when it comes to finding activities that will soothe because they require a high level of stimulation. According to clinical psychologist Jamie Rishikof, Psy.D., “For someone with ADHD, it is very hard to focus, organize, and process information when it is not very stimulating.” Common soothing efforts may go unnoticed if they are not stimulating enough to maintain your youngster’s attention. To soothe, you may need to incorporate multiple sensory stimulation. For example, when story time comes around, give your child something to fidget with while you read to engage his visual, aural and tactile senses. Something to fidget with can be a useful tactic in nearly any calm or focused situation. Let him listen to music while you go for a calm afternoon walk or end craft time with tactile activities such as molding clay or sifting through sand. Pressure can also soothe kids with sensory disorders. The next time you're cuddling together, try squeezing her more tightly to you to provide the deep pressure she finds more stimulating.