We all want to raise children who develop into adults who live well and thrive. As such, teaching children how to self-soothe is one of the greatest things you can do as an effective parent. With all the stress that young children face in today’s busy world, it is critical that they develop skills to keep calm in the midst of stressful situations–far too critical to be left to chance!
Teaching children to self-soothe helps them manage unwanted behavior more effectively.
Life for a youngster can be tough and intimidating at times. They need strategies to defend themselves against stressful events. As such, all children need to be able to adjust their emotional state to a more comfortable level of intensity so they can cope better with stress. For example, when you remind yourself that an anxiety-provoking event will be over soon, when you curb your anger at a good friend’s unwanted behavior, or when you decide not to see a scary horror film, you are engaging in the art of self-soothing.
Self-soothing requires a good amount of effort from a healthy brain. Thankfully, nature lends a hand in this area. As a child’s frontal lobes develop, so does his tolerance for stress and anxiety. Even so, a brain that can self-soothe well is dependent on a good amount of rest and healthy meals. So make sure they eat a hearty breakfast and make sure they are well rested each day.
Secondly, his ability to self-soothe is also dependent on parents who are sensitive to 1) his physical needs; 2) his emotional needs; and 3) his growing need for independence. As such, parental sensitivity is paradoxical in nature.
On one hand, your job is to offer soothing interventions in times of stress. Leaving a youngster alone with his intimidating emotions can limit his ability learn how to self-soothe independently. Too much stress and anxiety can actually undermine brain development and make it harder to self-soothe throughout his life.
On the other hand, children need to learn how to self-soothe on their own as well as with your support. If you constantly hold, coddle, and rescue your child from his distress, it can actually impair his ability to self-soothe. For example, preschoolers that are still sleeping in Mom and Dad’s bed tend to be clingy, have separation issues, and tend to have more generalized anxiety. They tend to be children and teens who lack confidence because they have not be given the opportunities to learn how to manage everyday stress. So what does this paradox mean for you?
Teaching children to self-soothe requires balanced expectations.
The key to helping kids learn how to self-soothe is offering parental involvement that is well balanced. Too much involvement can be problematic because children can feel smothered by parents. However, too little involvement can be problematic because children can feel as though they must “fend for themselves,” like nobody is “there” for them. The key is to hesitate to solve their emotional problems until they truly need your guidance.
A Point to Ponder
Children whose parents “read” their needs for support and independence well and respond accordingly to those cues tend to experience less stress. They tend to be less fussy while facing stress and tend to be happier and more interested in exploration in times of distress. In contrast, parents who tend to overreact to a child’s stress, respond with impatience or anger, or wait until their youngster is extremely agitated only reinforce the rapid rise to intense distress. Balance is the key…
Author: Steve Cuffari For many, Steve Cuffari is the mentor that parents call on to make their parenting style warmer, easier and more affective. He is the founder of inTouch Parenting, a company devoted to helping today's parents calm the chaos, raise emotionally intelligent kids, and nurture families that thrive. read more about Steve Cuffari here...