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Teaching your child how to stop and think
May 13, 2019

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Does your child struggle with controlling their body? Are they able to fix their behaviors relatively easy? Have you noticed that they:

Act overly silly or "out of control"

Have tantrums or meltdowns

Experience difficulty waiting or taking turns

Struggle with being in close proximity to others

Moves too quickly or with too much force

Act on impulse by grabbing, throwing, or touching things

Experience difficulty walking or waiting in line

Have problems during social interactions like talking too loudly or standing too close

If you've noticed some of those struggles with your child then they may need help learning how to regulate. Self-regulation is "control [of oneself] by oneself. It is a skill that has an overarching effect on a person's ability to tolerate unmet wants or needs, handle disappointments and failures, and work towards success. The key word in the last sentence is SKILL. Self-regulation has to be taught and then children need time to practice using the skill. The more they practice the better they become.

There are two different types of activities you can do to teach your child how to self-regulate.

Games and Fun Activities can teach about managing impulses.

Red light, green light- have a start line and a finish line, one child is the cop and says green light for the rest of the children to go and red light for them to freeze. If they move after red light has been said then they move back to the start line. First person across the finish line wins and gets to be the new cop. Reverse rules, stop when the cop says green light, and go when the cop says red light.

The Freeze Game- dance to music and then freeze when the music stops. Dance fast to fast-paced songs, slow to slower-paced songs, and then reverse the rules.

Wacky Relay- have children work with a partner to move an object from the start line to the finish line using elbow to elbow, palm to palm, hip to hip or forehead to forehead. The larger the object the easier it is.

Self Control Bubbles- allow children to pop bubbles as you blow them, then tell children not to touch the bubbles at all, even if they land on their face. Praise children as they refrain from touching the bubbles.

Calming Techniques teach children new skills that they can use to manage their emotions. Reading a story helps them to become aware of their strengths and weaknesses and exposes them to different techniques that they can use. Check out some of these stories:

Clark The Shark by Bruce Hale

Lacey Walker, Nonstop Talker by Christianne Jones

It's Hard To Be A Verb by Julia Cook

When I feel Angry by Cornelia Spellman

Anh's Anger by Gail Silver

It's Hard To Be Five by Jamie Lee Curtis

I'm In Charge of Me by David Parker

Even Superheroes Have Bad Days by Shelly Becker

Moody Cow Meditates by Kerry Lee MacLean

Listening To My Body by Gabi Garcia

What Should Danny Do? (The Power To Choose Series) by Ganit & Adir Levy

My Magic Breath by Nick Ortner & Alison Taylor

Personal Space Camp by Julia Cook

Focus on one skill at a time and slowly move to the next. Just a few minutes a day can really help improve their self-regulation. The games and stories above are great ways to help children reflect on their own ability to self-regulate in various situations.

Children can learn self-awareness and self-calming strategies for handling stress and emotions that will carry them through their teenage and adult years.

Amanda Bohlen is the new family and consumer science educator for The Ohio State University Extension in Washington County. She received her bachelor's in family and consumer science education from Ohio University and her master's in curriculum and instruction from Ohio Valley University. For the last seven years she has been in the classroom teaching high school students' financial education, child development, nutrition and culinary skills.

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