How To Teach An Older Child To Self-Soothe

Adolescence is, without a doubt, a difficult time for teenagers, as well as their parents.  Coping with numerous pressures, such as schoolwork or relationships with peers, can swiftly elevate unhappiness to acute despair, rage, or anxiety.

Learning how to teach an older child to self-soothe can be an invaluable skill to learn.

How To Teach An Older Child To Self-Soothe

When trying to comfort older children, caregivers may say things like, “calm down, it’s not a big deal” For certain teenagers, that would be enough to send them back down from a high emotional state, but for many, it makes them feel like their thoughts and feelings are not valid at that moment and causes them to get even more agitated.

What else other than advising our teenagers and older children to “just calm down” can we do to help them?

Teaching children to understand how to calm themselves is a critical skill that not only enables them to take responsibility for their psychological state but also equips them to properly deal with the stress and often turbulent events that come with adulthood.

What Is Meant By “Self-Soothing”

“Self-soothing” relates to any action used by a person to control their psychological response on their own, without the help of another human being.

Self-soothing activities are frequently acquired in the early stages of life during a child’s formative years and are repetitive and habitual in structure. 

Self-soothing techniques are frequently perceived as calming or reassuring by a child or teen. Self-soothing actions can be observed throughout the lifecycle.

Adults are not atypical in actively engaging in self-soothing habits that they established as children; nevertheless, several of these practices decline with time and self-awareness. 

While self-soothing is an essential life skill for mental well-being, certain self-soothing activities that a child or teenager may engage in may be considered unacceptable for their age and some are even considered self-injurious if they’re not taught the proper techniques.

This is why as a parent, it is so important to teach your children how to self-soothe, regardless of their age.

How To Teach An Older Child To Self-Soothe

How Can I Teach My Older Child To Self-Soothe

Discovering what is comforting or relaxing while being in a balanced mental state is important for learning to self-soothe. Examine how distinct sensory sensations, such as scent, feel, taste, sight, hearing, and action might elicit diverse concepts. 

Some teenagers may benefit from a comfortable blanket to snuggle up to, soothing or inspiring music to listen to, and sipping warm beverages. This is sometimes more than enough to calm them down in a crisis or overwhelming moment. 

Playing a comedy movie or browsing through old photos of family holidays may also cause more good feelings to replace extreme negative ones.

Allowing your teen the authority to choose what will be calming is critical. Additional ideas for trying to defuse intense emotions involve taking a cold or hot shower, performing star jumps, getting some exercise, or even hosting a spontaneous dance party in their bedroom. 

Allow them to be inventive! If you try to force an activity on them that they really don’t enjoy or don’t want to do at that moment, it could make their negative feelings even worse. 

Many teenagers likely already have self-soothing behaviors that they enjoy, but they’ve not taken a moment to jot them down.

It might be tough to think about what can help you be happy in the midst of stress, so keeping a list written on paper can remind your children and teens that they have go-to tactics for relaxing themselves. 

Although this method of minimizing negative emotions can be beneficial for people of all ages, teenagers can gain the most because they like establishing their independence and may firmly oppose a parent’s offered remedies, no matter how correct and helpful they may be.

Here are some ways you can support your older child in adopting positive methods to self-soothe:

1. Do not shame your child if they have adopted unhelpful or negative self-soothing techniques. This often does more harm than good. In general, the habit will fade as the youngster grows older and learns to comprehend and deal with certain feelings. 

When attention is paid to an activity, especially negative attention such as discipline or humiliation, the pressure that the behavior releases is likely to rise, causing the conduct to rise without conscious thought. As a result, paying attention to the behavior can encourage it.

2. Examine the behavior to have a better understanding of its intent. For example, when do they engage in self-soothing behavior? Is the conduct happening because they are restless, exhausted, scared, or hungry, for example?

Once the origins of self-soothing behavior have been discovered, we can attempt to eliminate or reduce the influence of the trigger.

3. Positive reinforcement is widely acknowledged as an effective method of changing or preventing misbehavior. A little incentive might be offered when your child does not engage in the behavior for an extended length of time. 

You could even use rewards to encourage your youngster to embrace new behaviors. Star charts might be useful for smaller kids. For older children, keeping a behavior journal on a daily basis can be beneficial.

4. Display for your child or adolescent healthy, safe, and non-harmful self-soothing practices. How you deal with pressures influences how your child deals with pressures.

When you’re feeling stressed, say something such as, “I have so much to accomplish today that I’m not sure how I’m able to do it all!” I guess I’ll need a moment to perform some deep breathing before I feel more confident.” 

This will show your youngster that you have recognized your tension by verbalizing it and that you have reacted to it effectively.

What Are Some Appropriate Ways For An Older Child To Self Soothe

If your teen or older child has adopted harmful or unhelpful ways to cope with their emotions, try to encourage replacing them with one or more of the following self soothe options.

Remember: every child is different, and they may not respond positively to each technique right away. Communicate with your child and try to work out what works best for them.

  • Using a stress ball
  • Squishing a soft toy
  • Having fun with a family pet
  • Rings, bracelets, and spinners make great fidget objects to relieve tension
  • Snapping the elastic band against the wrist
  • Listening to music using headphones to block out external distractions and stressors
  • Taking a long walk
  • Taking a hot bubble bath or cool shower
  • Whacking a punching bag to release anger
  • Discussion of emotions with a trusted adult
  • Mindfulness/meditation or yoga stretches

Final Thoughts

Learning how to teach an older child to self soothe is an important and invaluable skill to help them navigate through childhood and adolescence.

With our handy guide and tips, we hope your older child can adopt these self-soothe methods to create a more relaxed and peaceful daily routine.

Joyce Bailey
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