Who is this Kid?
Your child doesn’t reach out to a friend for weeks yet expects that friendship to resume right where it left off.
Your child rolls their eyes when you say that 7th grade was hard for you too.
Your shy child prefers to hibernate and tells you that this virtual life is better for them, yet you know they are hiding and opting out.
Your child is irritable from the minute she appears in the kitchen yet can’t express why.
This behavior probably leaves you wondering how to handle it, how to remain calm and how to help your child who may melt down if you broach the topic.
F3 or the Fight–Flight–Freeze response is the body’s automatic, built-in system designed to protect us from threat or danger. In fight, flight or freeze, your body’s chemistry changes because your body is in a defensive cascade and you are reactive and may not be able to access your thinking self.
The body’s internal alarm will continue to go off until something changes. In order to help your child bring their arousal level down and return to feeling safe, you must let your body know that there is no threat and that things are ok.
3 Calming Strategies for Kids
- Pause, Step away from the situation or find a place to use strategies—PAUSE encourages children to STOP irregular behavior and access the prefrontal cortex, allowing them to utilize their logical thought processes before acting. The power of the PAUSE is that it connects children with their prefrontal cortex and allows them to rationally observe highly charged emotional situations. By pausing, children can accomplish the following tasks:
- Breathe and connect to their prefrontal cortexes, allowing them to use their logical thought processes.
- Calm down and get a hold of their emotions.
- Boss their bodies and stop any physical movement that may be causing problems.
- Think of solutions to their upsetting problems or situations.
If you plan on using PAUSE with your child, I’d suggest creating a visual cue or code word. The PAUSE button symbol (I got this concept from David Giwerc of ADDCA) seems to be very popular with kids, and I often print them out and laminate them for younger children, who like the physicality of “pushing” the PAUSE button. Older kids may prefer a code word or phrase, such as “Please take a moment to pause.”
- Respond with strategies – Ideally you and your child will have discovered strategies that have induced calm before. Some possibilities include exercise such as jumping jacks, running up stairs or doing push ups for 15 minutes increase serotonin and dopamine; Inhaling a scent that calms you; breathing until you reach a calmer state; Petting an animal until you feel the wise self return.
- Wait until calm returns – Don’t try to dish out solutions while your child is in this state. As the parent, you can pause and take a break. Trying to problem solve and get your point across, if your child in unable to listen, can cause more harm.
I recommend you print these strategies for immediate use if your child hits the wall and falls into panic. Another options is to have a key word you can say your child is in fight, flight or freeze mode and may not be able to think things out yet needs to implement strategies.