I. A.M. C.A.L.M™ Stress Management System for Children
Teach your child to self-soothe
and manage their stress
“The more tranquil a man becomes,
the greater is his success, his influence, his power for good.
Calmness of mind is one of the beautiful jewels of wisdom" James Allen
Mark Greenberg, tells us that self-regulation abilities are the prerequisite for acting responsibly. Moral teachings alone, without our children developing the underlying skills to fortify them, are not enough. Unless children can learn how to calm themselves when they are angry, frustrated or upset, every character quality and value we teach them will take a back seat to their uncontrolled emotions.
Self-regulation is the primary, critical skill for children. Self-regulation is a very difficult skill to master and takes repeated practice. This is where The Capables “I AM CALM” Exercise™ is so wonderfully effective. It gives children a step-by-step method to use in developing self-regulation that ties in wonderfully with the theme of their Capables™ Capes™.
Using imagination and positive self-talk, are great ways to help children create and strengthen self-regulation strategies. By using their imagination and positive self-talk, children can encourage themselves as a way of controlling their behavior. In order for self-talk to be effective in calming a child, the child must have a simple system to fall back on when they are stressed and feeling overwhelmed.
In order to develop effective self-management skills children must learn two important things:
- 1) to become aware of their feelings before they act out destructive emotions. (The Capables “I AM CALM” Self-management System™ helps children to interrupt their automatic stimulus/ response reactions long enough to give the child time to actually make a choice about their thoughts, feelings and behavior.) and
- 2) to take responsibility for their thoughts and the subsequent feelings and emotions as well as their actions.
The I. A.M. C.A.L.M. acronym is as follows:
I – Interrupt the feeling
It is simple to interrupt a feeling but it is not easy.
It begins with interrupting the thought that precedes the feeling. This is a difficult thing to teach a child, but once they master it, it will positively impact their life. If a child can stop to examine their feelings, they interrupt the automatic response triggered by the amygdala and theoretically begin activation of the left frontal lobe – the area of the brain that researchers believe helps inhibit disturbing emotions.
Thought precedes feelings and actions! It is important to realize that emotions are the result of thought. If we want to control our feelings and actions then we must learn to manage and control our thoughts. We feel emotions as soon as a thought enters our mind. The most effective time to control a thought and the subsequent emotion is when the thought first reaches our brain.
Most people think we can have many thoughts at one time. The key to successful thought control is to know that you can only haveONE THOUGHT AT A TIME.
Attempt to evaluate if a thought is constructive or destructive, neutral or self-defeating as soon as it enters your mind? Is the thought easy or hard to control? Where might the thought have come from?
This is where a child gets to put into practice thought replacement that we teach them with The Capables Think-A-Head Pocket™. As we teach our children how easy it is to REPLACEone thought for another, using The Capables Think-A-Head Pocket™ they can begin to do it without having to go through the writing down, taking out, and physically replacing of every thought. They begin to develop confidence that their thoughts are things they can control and choose, and it becomes a mental exercise, more than the physical exercise it was in the beginning.
It is a good idea to continue to help your child to use their Capables Think-A-Head Pocket™ to practice interrupting and replacing persistent negative thoughts over and over again until you have developed a habit of replacing the negative thought with a warmer, happier, positive thought and can do it quickly in their head.
A – Ahhh . . . Always remember to breathe and take deep breaths
Just like the breath we take right before we put our heads under water, that is the kind of deep breath we need to take out of the water whenever we feel stressed.Deep breathing calms the body. It is the body’s natural calming mechanism. It reduces the heart rate and provides much needed oxygen to the brain. It sounds simple, and often to children, it sounds a bit too simple. But once you educate them on how the body works and they begin to understand that breathing deeply will always help them feel more calm and relaxed, it is a lesson that will serve them in many stressful situations for the rest of their lives.
Deep Breathing Exercise for your children:
1. Explain to your children that you're going to learn a new type of breathing: deep breathing. Ask them to think about swimming. Remind them of the kind of breath they take right before their heads go under water. Ask them to take a few slow, deep, big breaths and let their tummy push out as their lungs fill with air. If done correctly, deep breaths will make their tummy “big” because the breaths are big. Naturally their tummies will go in as the air leaves their lungs. (This is called "diaphragmic breathing". Diaphragmic is a funny sounding word and fun to learn. Diaphragmic breathing is more calming than "shallow breathing" that simply moves your shoulders up and down.)
2. Once their breathing is slowed and diaphragmic, tell them that you're going to breathe in for a longer time--for the count of six. (You can either count for them while they breathe, or you can breathe with them while counting with your fingers.) Some younger children may find a count of six too difficult; you can start with a count of three and gradually stretch it out.
3. After you've practiced this a few times, introduce the last step: slowing their breathing our, or exhale. Exhale is also a funny sounding word that children enjoy learning. Kids tend to want to let the air "explode" out after a big inhale. You want to teach them to practice controlling their breath and exhaling to a count of six or even eight with them.
M – Mark time
To mark time means to wait; to be patient and do nothing but wait.
This period of waiting, even if it is only stopping long enough to count back-wards from 10 for younger children, and to count backwards from 25 for a little older kids, and to count backwards slowly from 25 while taking deep breaths for an adult, requires use of the frontal lobe and helps to removes the child from the immediate intensity and drive of a destructive emotion. Counting backwards is easy, and just one of the ways for your child to learn to distance from the intensity of a feeling they feel compelled to react to.
There are other effective methods that help your child mark time. Consider the personality of your child to help them to create a way to mark time that fits them. Sometimes is it helpful for your child to choose a special, very uplifting song that you know and love. It helps if you have several years of good memories and feelings associated with this song choice. This can easily become your child’s thought management song. When an unwanted thought enters their mind, they can begin singing, (either in their mind, or out loud) the words to their calming song. Teach them to use repetition until they begin to feel calmer.
They can also learn a positive and uplifting poem that is short, or close their eyes until they can see a smiling bunny. It really doesn’t matter as long as whatever strategy your child chooses, he or she uses.
C – Cover yourself with your invisible magic Protective Cape
Imagination is a wonderful tool for transporting both adults and children emotionally wherever feels safest for them.
This exercise helps to strengthen imagination, which is always a positive skill to cultivate for many positive reasons. A highly developed imagination is going to serve you well when you are doing visualization exercises to help you see your dreams come true in your mind before they come true in the world.
When children imagine they have access to, and control of, an invisible cape, or a cape that makes them feel invisible, it allows them to distance themselves from destructive thoughts and stimulus and sooth the fight or flight reaction that comes with fear.
By covering themselves with an invisible, protective cape, they can imagine that they are safe, and when we imagine we are safe, we feel safe.
A – Appreciate something (be thankful for anything)
When your child stops long enough to think about something they feel appreciation or gratitude for it can help them shift from an angry, frustrated, or entitled perspective to one of appreciation and endowment. Yes, you know what I am going to say next, it does exactly the same for YOU. When your children witness you using this exercise and going through the steps, you are teaching them simply by modeling the exercise for them. Modeling is one of the most powerful teaching tools in the parenting tool box. But be careful, your children are watching everything you do and will not just model the things you want them to do, but they will model ALL that you show them to model.
This simple shift from stress and frustration to appreciation is the secret for all of us, both adults and children, to changing the quality of our lives. Moving from distress and misery to peace and joy is really as simple as taking the time to change our minds and hearts. Simply by stopping in the middle of distress of any kind to count their blessings, they are accomplishing three things:
1. it gives them (YOU) a perfect opportunity to mark time
2. it changes the perspective from which they (YOU) are viewing their situation
3. when their thoughts think about positive things, their (YOUR) perspective changes, when their (YOUR) perspective changes, their (YOUR) emotions change with it.
L– Listen to, and with, your heart
“None of us will ever accomplish anything excellent or commanding
except when he listens to this whisper which is heard by him alone.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Your Heart is the where your sacred light shines, where conscience lives, and where a deeper form of wisdom resides.
When we can teach our children to listen to their hearts, they can generate different solutions to problems by activating a their creativity and compassion.
When we search for answers within our hearts, versus reacting with an unexamined response to a threatening or frustrating stimulus, we utilize skills that separate human beings from animals. The best answer for any distressing situations are found in our calm hearts and that is exactly what this exercise is designed to help children do.
When we can help teach children to stop and listen to their hearts, they will make fewer choices that cause them to feel regretful, and they will make fewer choices that cause them to suffer negative consequences.
M – Make a GREAT choice
Through utilizing this exercise, children will gain some emotional space and give themselves time to shift their awareness.
Using The Capables “I AM CALM” Strategy™gives children an opportunity to put themselves in a much more favorable position from which to make sound, good, positive choices.
Once a child has stopped long enough to examine any given situation from their heart, they are better equipped to use their heads in making careful and well thought out decisions.
When making a choice they can consider if they feel a choice fits within the ‘GOOD’or ‘GREAT’category of choices. It is when we help our children develop a habit of making consistently ‘GREAT’choices that we know that we have prepared them to risk living their greatest dreams.
Developing and strengthening a child’s ability to calm themselves and manage their emotions in a stressful situation before they choose to take an action, is one of the most important skills we can hope our children learn and perfect.