8 Self-Soothing Techniques for Your Young Child

By Kate Kelly
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When your child is anxious or stressed, these techniques can help her relax and regain her sense of control. Practice them with her to help her discover what works best for her.

Take a few deep breaths.

When people are feeling anxious or tense, they naturally tend to take rapid, shallow breaths. The simple act of breathing slowly and deeply can reduce feelings of stress. Have your child practice this move: Breathe in slowly through the nose…hold for a few seconds…and then slowly exhale through the mouth. Repeat several times.

Relax from head to toe.

Take deep breathing to the next level. If your child is at home or someplace else where she can relax, have her lie down with one hand on her stomach and the other on her chest. Ask her to close her eyes and relax all of her muscles, from the top of her head to the tips of her toes. Tell her to breathe slowly and deeply and imagine the tension draining out of her body.

Take a mental vacation

Help your child visualize a place she finds relaxing. Have her close her eyes and picture somewhere she really likes to go, such as the beach. Ask her what sounds she typically hears there and what the place smells like. Then help her imagine the sounds of the waves crashing, the scent of the salt in the air, or whatever sensory details she described.

Hold tight.

When people feel that they’re under pressure, they tense up physically. Squeezing a squeeze ball can help your child release that tension. So can squishing modeling clay or hugging a stuffed animal. These actions also encourage her to focus on what her hands are doing, distracting her from whatever’s causing her anxiety.

Get moving.

Exercise can be a great way to channel nervous energy. Plus, it releases feel-good endorphins that boost your child’s mood. She can hop up and down 10 times, do three laps around the backyard (if you have one), or whatever works best wherever you happen to be at the time.

Think positive.

To help your child deal with anxiety when she’s confronting a challenge, like an upcoming test, teach her to replace negative thoughts with upbeat ones. Brainstorm together to come up with an empowering, affirmative phrase or mantra she can repeat in her mind. “I can do it” or “I am strong” are good choices.

Crank the tunes.

Listening to music can defuse tension in a variety of ways. It’s your child’s call: She can listen to music that makes her want to dance or to soothing songs that calm her down. It’s always good to have more than one option!

Use Mom or Dad as a role model.

How you deal with stress will influence how your child learns to cope, too. So the next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, say something like, “I’ve got so much to do today, I don’t know how I’m going to get everything finished! I need to take a minute to do my jumping jacks. Then I’ll feel better.” Then ask your child to join you.

About the Author

About the Author

Kate Kelly 

has been writing and editing for more than 20 years, with a focus on parenting.

Reviewed by

Reviewed by

Elizabeth Harstad, MD, MPH 

is a developmental behavioral pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital.

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