I originally wrote this post to help my friends in Ukraine who have children or are ministering to children. As I reviewed the list of suggestions, however, I realized that all children could benefit from having a place in their home that served to calm them. These tips will help any parents you know in Ukraine, but they can also help you soothe your children when they have bad days, experience something traumatic or are fearful or stressed.
1. Regardless of the environment in which you find yourself, look around you and think calming and soothing. What do you have access to that might help calm and soothe your child? (This includes your home or your child’s bedroom.)
2. What are the colors in your environment? Try to position children where they can see blue, green or purple…whether it is a wall, someone’s clothing, etc. Try to simplify or minimize what they can see…for example position them looking where there is the least chaos visually (put not just staring at a blank wall, although that may be preferable to other options). When choosing paint colors, think about using these shades, although sometimes a child’s favorite color will work just as well.
3. Is there something soft or fuzzy they can hold or stroke? Stuffed animals, some pets, fuzzy blankets or pillows, etc.
4. If they do not have access to their favorite stuffed animal, encourage them to be creative and make something else a pretend stuffed animal.. a glove, sock, hat…whatever you have on you. This was written for people on the run, but if you are out running errands and your child becomes stressed, it can work just as well.
5. When it is safe, let them see things in nature….the sky, trees, whatever they can safely see. Anything from God’s creation will help calm them. It can also help to have photos from nature as artwork in their rooms.
6. Sing softly to them if you do not have access to play them music. Try lullabies or soothing worship music. If you can play music, classical music often works well.
7. Expose them to sunlight rather than artificial light as much as you can. Be safe though. Artificial light is better than sunlight in a dangerous place.
8. Cuddle them.
9. Read soothing Psalms from the book of Psalms to them.
10. Encourage them to pray their emotions to God as well as their prayers for other things.
11. Don’t be afraid to show your own emotions in front of them, but try not to have a major, out of control melt down in front of them if possible. They need to express their emotions, so seeing you teary or crying softly is good for them. They also need to feel you can protect them (even though I know it may not feel that way to you at the moment), so they need to see you together enough that they aren’t fearful they will have to care for themselves.
12. When you do have choices for the foods they eat, pick healthier ones. You all are generally very healthy eaters, but fruits, vegetables and whole grains are more important than meat for them.
13. If they can move around safely, encourage them to exercise – even if it’s just jumping or running in place. It will work some of the stress out of their bodies.
14. Pray God’s blessings over your children out loud.
15. Weighted blankets can help if you have them, but placing something heavy on their laps like a book, a coat etc. can help soothe them. Don’t put on so much weight that they are uncomfortable in any way.
16. This may be impossible, but try to lessen the frightening noises. Headphones, ear plugs even ear muffs if it’s not too hot. Or sing softly in their ears to cover some of the “bad” noises.
Create a “safe”, soothing environment in your home. It can reduce stress and anxiety in any child. If you would like a more targeted version of this post written in Ukrainian to share with friends there, please message me and I will send it to you.