When our kids have the big feelings and big reactions, how do we help them calm back down? Deep breathing? Yoga poses? Quiet calming corner? Yes and no. Every single one of us has our own preferred method of emotional regulation. What helps you to calm your fired up nervous system down when you are having big feelings yourself? Do you like to sit calmly in one spot and look at pretty pictures? Do you like to take deep breaths? Do you like to exercise- go for a run or a workout? Do you like to talk to a friend (aka vent session)? I could go on and on here…. My point is this: there is no special calming strategy list that you should be working from to help your kids calm down.

Every child is different. Every day is different. Every big outburst or emotional reaction is DIFFERENT. What works for your child in that moment? That’s what you should be doing. Easy peasy, right? We all just magically can know what our kids need in every moment- especially the hard moments. Parenting is so easy….

La la la la la.

Yeah right. We wish it was this easy!

How do you figure out what your child might need to help their body calm down in these heightened states?

  • Watch them. Observe them. What types of activities does your child gravitate towards when things are calm and easy? Do they sit quietly and play or color or read or some other fairly calm activity? Or are they just a ball of big, loud, energy always on the move? Use this as your guide. If they like big movement when they are calm, what do you think they need when they are all worked up over something? Do they suddenly want to shift gears to sitting calmly and taking deep breaths?
  • Give them choices. I help my parent coaching families create visual choice boards for their kids- and the whole family. We usually put 2 columns- one side is still, one side is movement. Do you want to do one of these still calming activities like deep breaths or being alone? Or do you want to do one of these movement calming activities like wall push ups or jumping jacks? What does your body need?
  • Pay attention to what is working. If we try different ideas and strategies but don’t bother to see what’s working- what’s the point? We’re just throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks. In the moment it can be hard to be reflective and think about how we are going to do better next time as parents. When our kids are all worked up, we are most likely reacting emotionally right there with them! Later on, when things are calmer- pause and ask yourself what worked. Write it down if you need help remembering. Make a little note in your phone. Nothing fancy- just notice what’s working and don’t keep doing things that are not helpful to your child.

There is no magic bullet. There is no best way to help all children manage their big feelings and even bigger reactions. When it comes to helping your child come back down from 100mph- we just have to be creative and see what works best for them. Ask them when things are calm. Let them help you make a choice board. Make your own choice board- use it, model using these coping strategies for your kids to see. Just know that there is no single right way to do this. The right way is what is most helpful for your child. What works for YOU? I encourage you to use this wording when offering your child choices and talking about these choices when they are calm: “What does your body need?” It’s not about shaming our kids for their extreme reactions, it’s about helping them find a way to manage those better.


  • Ask “What does your body need right now?”
  • Give choices of things to help their body calm down- can be both still and movement based activities.
  • Use your own calm choices and model that for your kids.
  • Pay attention to what is working. Keep doing that.
  • Pay attention to what is not working. Don’t keep doing that.
  • Ask your kids later- “What helped your body?”

Do calming choices always have to be calm? No. Find what works for your child, for your family.