Teaching Your Kids Godly Ways to Self Soothe

What do your kids do when they are upset? Do they depend upon you to soothe them – even though they are old enough to try some things on their own? Or are they engaging in self harming behaviors like drugs and alcohol to help them “forget” what is upsetting them for a short time?

Unfortunately, the average young person hasn’t been taught resiliency skills like self soothing. So when upset, they will often default to behaviors suggested by peers which can actually make matters worse instead of better. The solution? Start teaching them godly ways to self soothe when they are very young and encourage them to practice them whenever they come to you upset. (Not in place of your nurturing, but in addition to it.) Then when they are older and it isn’t always convenient to come to you for comfort, they will already have several helpful strategies that don’t add to their troubles.

So what are some strategies to teach them? There are plenty, but here are a few of our favorites.

  • Deep slow breaths. Stress and anxiety tend to make us breathe more rapidly, which in turn quickens our heart rate – adding to the feelings of anxiety. Slow down the breathing, the heart rate will also slow and the anxiety will often ease.
  • Praying. Teach your kids to imagine God is sitting right across from them listening as they tell him what is bothering them in prayer. Encourage them to ask God to help calm them.
  • Reading and memorizing comforting scriptures like many of the Psalms. Many Psalms were written by David and others when they were feeling strong emotions. If your kids are feeling similar emotions, the Psalm can soothe them. Attempting to memorize scripture is also distracting and takes the brain our of the flight or fight mode for many.
  • Teddy bears. There is something comforting about stuffed animals and dolls. Even teens often keep stuffed animals around as “decorations”, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a few are hugged in stress.
  • Exercising. Depending on the circumstances either vigorous exercise or calming exercises like stretching can prove soothing. Some may find combining the two types helps them the most.
  • Playing with animals. This is so helpful many schools, hospitals and universities bring in animals for young people to play with during stressful times.
  • Math. Believe it or not, math uses a different part of the brain and can be calming. Of course, this may not work as well if what is stressing you to begin with is math class!
  • Crying. While constant crying is not the best long term strategy, sometimes a good cry will release all of those pent up negative feelings.
  • A good night’s sleep. It really is true that some things seem better in the morning. Often heightened emotions and a lack of sleep make things appear even worse that they are.
  • Laughing, playing games, having “good, clean fun”. Sometimes distraction eases the stress – even if just for a bit. It also keeps the brain from getting stuck in a negative thought pattern that can get harder and harder to shift back to a positive one.
  • Talking to a trusted adult about what is bothering them. Sometimes the conversations we have with ourselves in our head when we are stressed can make things worse. An objective, mature, Christian can point out some potential weaknesses in our thought process and help us calm down. Your children may have friends who can also do this, but teach them to avoid sharing with people who end up adding to their stress or suggesting negative coping strategies.
  • Music. King Saul was on to something when he had David play the lyre to soothe him. Music can impact our emotions. Encourage your children to listen to music that calms them. Have them experiment with different genres and artists to find the songs that help when they are stressed. Playing an instrument can also help.
  • Arts and crafts. Arts and crafts help us express emotions while the movements needed to create something can also help soothe. Even providing something as simple as plain white paper and crayons can help.

Giving your kids lots of acceptable options to use to ease stress can help avoid using techniques that may do more harm than good. It’s worth taking the time and effort to help them master the various methods.

Published by

Thereasa Winnett

Thereasa Winnett is the founder of Teach One Reach One and blogger at Parenting Like Hannah. She holds a BA in education from the College of William and Mary. She has served in all areas of ministry to children and teens for more than thirty years and regularly leads workshops for ministries and churches. She has conducted numerous workshops, including sessions at Points of Light’s National Conference on Volunteering and Service, the National Urban Ministry Conference, Pepperdine Bible Lectures, and Lipscomb’s Summer Celebration. Thereasa lives in Atlanta, GA with her husband Greg, where she enjoys reading, knitting, traveling and cooking.

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