In first grade, I am working with them on how to be good social problem solvers. However, I have found that even when a child knows how to solve a problem, they often still choose a “not so good” solution which in turn makes the problem bigger!
This is why it is so important to teach kids ways to cool off when they are having, what we call in second step, strong emotions. I spend an entire lesson teaching various ways to calm down and then practice them with the students.
Some of the techniques are:
Deep Breathing: Also known as Belly Breathing. We sit up straight, put our hand on our belly and take 3-5 deep breaths. I tell the kids that they can keep their eyes open or close them. In order to teach kids to breath slow, I tell them to pretend that they have a hot bowl of soup in front of them. We breathe in through our nose like we are smelling the soup, and breathe out through our mouth like we are cooling it off. If we breathe too hard or fast, we may spill the soup!
Counting backwards: This one is fairly straight forward. I have the kids count backward from either 5 or 10 (depending on how strong their feelings are). We also practice counting SLOWLY. The reason counting works, if that it distracts your mind from what is getting you upset.
Think Calming Thoughts: This one works very well for feelings of nervousness as well as anger. I tell the kids to think of either a place that makes them feel calm or an object or activity. Some examples might be: watching tv, playing video games, petting your dog, riding your bike, ect. This is different for each person!
Self-talk: Self-talk is phrases or comments that we make in our head to help remind ourselves to calm down. Examples include saying: “I can do this,” “Calm down,” “It is going to be ok,” and my personal favorite “It’s not the end of the world.”
If we are able to calm ourselves down before solving a problem, it guarantees that we will pick a positive solution and help the problem to go away or become a smaller problem!