Your child might have a little body, but sometimes he can have big emotions such as anger that are hard for him to understand. Teaching your child appropriate ways to deal with his feelings can help him establish healthy emotional expression, coping strategies and self-control methods. Besides modeling stress management and emotional regulation, you can encourage him to participate in constructive sensory activities to capture, feel and release these emotions.
Physical activity allows your child to use his body to either express his emotions, expel the anger he is feeling or transform the feeling into something else. Running, jumping, dancing, stomping and kicking a ball around are kid-friendly options to let off steam. Using a trampoline, swings or riding toys also work. If you want something more low-key, offer to massage his feet, hands, shoulders or back. Having him sit in front of a fan can be soothing, too.
Sensory tables allow your child to sink his fingers into the experience and allow him to purge his emotions in a safe way. Play dough, cookie cutters, a small rolling pin and a play hammer work very well for this type of activity. You can also fill a shallow plastic bin with cut up sponges, foam pieces, paper scraps, bubble foam, water or sand. Small toy cars, plastic animals or plastic figurines can be added to the sensory table for more play options.
A bin of art supplies can be stowed away and pulled out when your child is angry or upset. Craft paper and nontoxic acrylic paints make for an expressive finger-painting exercise. Scented markers and plain white paper offer plenty of opportunities to let out his emotions in a constructive way. Yarn, fabric scraps, construction paper, kid’s scissors and a glue stick can transform his emotions into art.
The University of New Mexico Center for Development and Disability suggests incorporating oral stimulation for self-control and regulation. According to the UNM site, chewing can organize his thoughts and feelings, sucking can calm him and eating crunchy foods can make him more alert. For instance, you can offer gum to a child over the age of four and allow him to chew on it for a while when he’s angry. A fruit popsicle or lollipop can soothe him as he sucks on it. Carrot sticks and celery sticks are crunchy options for kids older than age 4.
- University of New Mexico Center for Development and Disability: Self-Regulation/Self-Control: Tips and Strategies
- PBS: What Do You Do With The Mad That You Feel?
- HealthyChildren.org: How to Understand Your Child's Temperament
- HealthyChildren.org: Choking Prevention
- HealthyChildren.org: Building Resilience in Children
- Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images