Anxiety affects people in many different ways. Some students may struggle with clinical anxiety, and some students may have moments of fear that creep up when least expected. While this information is not intended to be medical advice,* our aim is to offer some simple solutions to help you calm your child’s nervous system in a moment of stress or escalation.
*This list is based on the work of Stephen Porges and Polyvagal Theory. Again, it is not medical advice and should not be read as such. Our hope is to help you support your child and encourage feelings of relaxation and safety, especially during this challenging time.
Take Deep Breaths
Breathing is a simple, yet powerful tool to help you calm your child’s nervous system. If you see that your child is starting to take short, shallow breaths or look agitated, try to distract him or her with breathing exercises. The key is to encourage long, slow breaths. You can also try telling your child to breathe in through the mouth and out through the nose.
A psychologist recommendation for activating the vagus nerve (which helps to promote calm) is to gargle! The contraction of the muscles helps to reset the body and gastrointestinal tract.
If your child can’t gargle or the moment is too escalated, try encouraging him or her to hum or sing — this can produce similar effects!
There is so much value to physical movement. Whether it’s dancing, jumping jacks, walking, running, or even getting up and pacing around the room, movement can help to reset the ‘fight or flight’ response.
Label the Feelings
An empowering way to calm your child’s nervous system is to encourage him or her to speak the emotions aloud, rather than holding them in. Encourage your child to say, “I’m feeling stressed” or “I’m feeling confused” when he or she first recognizes symptoms of stress. This can not only help with self-awareness, but it can encourage self-regulation, too!
Splash Cool Water
A splash of cool water stimulates a physical response that helps to ‘jolt’ your child out of the moment. It can also help to immediately reduce any puffiness around the eyes if he/she has been crying. If things really escalate, a cool shower or glass of water can be other ways to reset and help your child calm down.
For other tips and ideas to support your child, head to our blog page!