How To Calm Down an Anxious Child


Wow! Just Wow!! Is all I can think to myself sometimes when I see our 8 year old daughter get into an occasional Tizzy over some small thing that is not going her way.

When the loom band that won’t play ball becomes the end of life as we know it, head down on the table “I’m never making loom bands again, ever”, “I can’t do this”.  Despite the fact that she has made loom band key-rings before, necklaces, and even iphone covers, and is really good at it.  Generally she is not a brat, but sometimes 8 year old exorcist girl takes over and reasonable girl hides in the corner in fear of its life.  In those situations my gut instinct is sometimes to yell at her and tell her to stop being silly, but exorcist girl can’t understand parent speak, let alone parent speak communicated at impatiently high volume.  The other day though I discovered something that did work…

Exorcist girl ran stomping upstairs and hid under the doona on our bed continuing  to manifest, her head was spinning round as well I think.   For once I had my patient dad pants on and decided to go and lie next to her and calmly pat her on the back.  In the moment I also remembered a helpful but simple relaxation technique that might work, after all I had nothing to lose.  Firstly I asked her what made her upset?  She explained a little bit, but was still overcome with Tizzy.  Then I said in a calm voice, “I’m not angry with you but can you try something for me, tell me five things you can see”, which she did.  Then I asked “tell me five things you can hear”, which she did also.  The next question was “tell me five things you can feel or you are touching”.  Once she had done these three things I led her through some deep breathing, to breathe in for a count of four, then breath out for a count of six.  We did the deep breathing thing a number of times together.  Once we had finished she bounced off the bed and back downstairs a whole different person.

Our daughter does have some anxiety, and as I said earlier she is not usually a brat, but sometimes gets overwhelmed by her emotions.  Being in a Tizzy and stomping around the house being angry at us and her siblings is not something I take lightly or want to let her get away with, but the way my wife and I have sometimes reacted has probably not been helpful.  This technique has become a useful alternative for putting out emotional bushfires, and we’ll be using it often I’m sure over the next five to ten years of parenting.

The technique which I call the “See, Hear, Feel Five” is also useful for adults to calm themselves down or change their mood, and I have found it especially helpful for getting to sleep at night when I am feeling restless or have a lot going through my mind.  The idea behind the technique is to get the person using the technique out of their head and into their body.  Also known as getting back into the present moment rather than being carried away with your thoughts.  I don’t know what the origin of the technique is but a reliable source of mine who is a professional in the field of counselling said it has been tested to be one of the most effective for changing people’s moods.

To summarise then, the See, Hear, Feel Five technique goes a follows:

  1. Identify five things you can See
  2. Identify five things you can Hear
  3. Identify five things you can Feel against some part of your body
  4. Do some slow deep breathing, breathe in for a count of four, breath out for a count of six.

P.S. Just remember that this technique is not fool proof by any means.  In fact I tried it again this morning after another Loom band meltdown before school and it worked a little bit, but not enough to really calm her down before having to get into the car.  At that point I did use the “do you want to see me get really angry” turn of phrase because we were running out of time for patient consoling.  A better and more sensible solution for all of us will be to stop her doing loom bands before school and only in the afternoon instead when there is more space.  The moral of the story for me is that while the See, Hear, Feel Five is a helpful tool sometimes adjusting her routine might be the best way to avoid and potential meltdown.  



About Author

Leave A Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.