Supporting Emotional Development In Children-Self Soothing Through The Senses
The ability to calm yourself down is fundamental to being able to manage emotional reactions. We learn to “self-soothe” from a very early age, with research showing that people who learn to do this effectively are more resilient as adults and experience less mental health issues. We can help our children to develop the ability to self-soothe in healthy ways and one of the easiest ways to teach this is through helping them connect with their senses and to use these in times emotional need. I like to talk to kids about these skills and framing it as helping them to be their own “best friend”, because sometimes Mum/Dad/Carer aren’t always able to be in every situation to help them if they are feeling bad.
Teaching self-soothing can be lots of fun and you can really indulge and get creative if you wish to. Below are a list of activities and important points to know when teaching this skill set.
1) Talk to your child about their 5 senses and identify which organ is associated with each sense.
2) Brainstorm comforting things that you can do using each sense e.g. smell a lovely flower, listen to a favourite song, look at a picture of a cute animal.
3) Create a list of different activities your child can choose from and place it in a calm spot in your home.
4) Better yet, create a “self-soothing box”, with items in it ready for use in times of emotional need.
5) Encourage your child to use self-soothing activities when they are feeling in need of comfort. You may want to do the activities with them as well.
6) Whilst kids are learning self-soothing, it is important that you continue to provide physical and emotional comfort alongside of the skills developing. It will take some time for your little one to become an effective self-soother and whilst they are learning they will still need you.
I also encourage parents to think about how they self-soothe. Whilst “wine o’clock” can be helpful, you might decide to make your own self-soothing box or list as well. Remember, your children are learning through watching you, and if they see you modelling effective skills they will want to do them too.