WHEN Isaac was an infant his mother would soothe him when he was upset.
She learned that he liked to be rocked in her arms or in a swing. Brianna on the other hand, liked to have her back patted when she was upset. Parents soon learn that every baby is different. They may also change as they get older.
When our babies are upset we calm them in the ways that will work for them. They will also start to learn how to soothe themselves and it's important for us to let them work that out for themselves.
But we can teach them how to calm themselves. When they know how to handle upsets in their lives they will experience less stress.
If we rush in every time our toddlers and preschoolers are upset and handle it for them by distraction or buying them a treat, we deny them the chance to learn how to soothe themselves.
Rather than coming in and solving every little problem for them, we can teach them ways to control their own stress levels. When they are toddlers, physical activity often works best. Running, dancing or swimming can help kids work off a lot of upset and anger.
Some children are more verbal. They are the kids who tend to cry easily. When they develop language you can move this tendency to want to verbalize by encouraging them to talk about what is bothering them. There are times when just getting to talk about what's bothering you will calm the waters. It may be that there is no solution but being able to talk about it makes it acceptable and takes away much of the stress.
Listening to music calms some of these kids. It may be quiet and contemplative music or possibly a rousing rendition that reflects their inner turmoil. You can help them to learn which music works for them in different situations and let them choose the sound that fits the situation.
Babies are born with the skill to suck and besides using the sucking motion to eat, it also has a calming reaction. There are other ways to calm oneself with a soothing physical touch such as a hug, back rub or taking a bubble bath. If you have a child who responds to touch, offer a back rub and then have them learn to ask for what they need.
Food can also be soothing. The hour before dinner is often referred to as the arsenic hour. It's the time when children are most likely to be fussy and easily upset. It may be because they are hungry. A nutritious snack will go a long way to solving the arsenic hour terrors. The trick with using food to calm down is to ensure that it is nutritious. Heading to the ice cream bucket or the cookie jar will lead to other problems.
Humour is another way to reduce tension. When our children were little and we were on multi-day car trips we had some humorous CDs we would listen to. Our favourite was a comedy monologue by Bill Cosby. We could all recite word for word the content and we laughed every single time. It made that last difficult hour of travel one we looked forward to. To this day anyone in the family can quote a line from that CD and we will all burst into laughter.
Teach your child how to soothe themself and then be prepared to back away and let them handle their own problem. You may be surprised at how capable they are. These skills will remain with them for the rest of their life and they will be the one who can calm the storm when all hell is breaking loose in the boardroom.
Kathy Lynn is a professional speaker and author of Who's In Charge Anyway? and But Nobody Told Me I'd Ever Have to Leave Home. If you want to read more, sign up for her informational newsletter at www.parentingtoday.ca.
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