An Age-by-Age Guide to Help Your Child Calm Down

How many times have you told your child to “calm down?” This article provides a breakdown of specific activities that can help your child calm down based on their age.  Psychotherapist Amy Morin, who has a new book out called 13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don’t Do, says that children need to be able to control their tempers in order to succeed in life.  Being able to deal with stress, anger, frustration and anxiety requires a specific set of skills.  Not all children just inherently “know” these skills; sometimes we have to directly teach our children how to calm down.   Morin shares some visualization tactics in her book to help children learn to regulate their own emotions.  Here are some examples:

Preschool: “Stop and Smell the Pizza” teaches young children that slow, deep breaths can relax the body and reduce anger.

School Age: “Change the Channel” provides a task for children to keep their hands busy and also provides a “brain switch,” or shift in focus.  Morin notes that this should only be used when children are feeling stuck or if their emotions are becoming destructive.

Teens: “Lengthen the Fuse” identifies things that could help your teen handle stress in a healthy way.

And – if some of these appeal to our readers – there’s absolutely no reason that adults can’t implement these strategies for themselves!  🙂

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Teen Suicide Risk Factors

School Psychologists are often called upon to assist when our students experience thoughts of suicide or have been hospitalized for suicidal ideation.  This happens more frequently than any of us would like.

I had the opportunity recently to speak to the faculty at my high school about suicide prevention and intervention, including common warning signs.  This article from the Child-Mind Institute provides an excellent overview of some of the more typical “red flags” for teen suicide, including recent losses, substance abuse, bullying, and access to lethal means.

Not only does the article provide risk factors, but it also addresses some of the “protective factors,” or things that can help mitigate risk for suicide.  These include good problem-solving abilities, strong connections to others, and access to service/supports for any physical, mental or substance abuse needs.  Although we may not always have the power to erase any of those risk factors from a child’s life, what we can do is emphasize, support and help build upon those protective factors the child needs to cope effectively with life’s challenges.

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Reaching Students With Emotional Disturbances

This article from the Edutopia website was written by Dr. Lori Desautels, Assistant Professor in the College of Education at Butler University.  Dr. Desautels provides four strategies to help educators make connections with those students who may be dealing with emotional disturbances.  She notes that “Students who struggle with emotional disturbances are some of our most vulnerable, but when we can create predictable and consistent supports for them, their inner resilience can shine.”

The first strategy includes the use of Brain-Based Learning Centers where student can go to calm down, if needed.  We love that this method involves teaching students about their brains, which increase self-awareness and self-regulation.  Dr. Desautels suggests an “amygdala first aid station,” a “hippocampus area,” and a “prefrontal cortex area.”

Personalized Check-In Notes are the second strategy, which involves quick and simple personalized communication throughout the day.   Dr. Desautels suggests that educators “share notes, small goals, affirmations, and requests to maintain individualized consistent connections” with students.  For non-readers or English Language Learners, stickers, drawing or simple smiley-faces may be an option.

Structured Emotional Support through the use of the “2×10 Strategy” is next on the list.  We’ve posted about this strategy before here.  The research is impressive; not only was there an 85 percent improvement in that one student’s behavior, but the the behavior of all the other students in the class also improved.

The final suggestion is the use of a Locked Journal for Safe Self-Expression.  Dr. Desautels notes that, “when we write out our thoughts and feelings, we clear space in the frontal lobes for positive emotion and higher cognitive processes.”

One of our favorite statements in Dr. Desautel’s post is that “all behavior is communication.”  While students with emotional disturbances may not be able to engage in lengthy conversations about their feelings, they still tell us a lot through their actions – and they also hear a lot through our actions.

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School Safety Information

This isn’t a topic that we often post about, because schools are statistically still some of the safest places to be in this day and age.  However, several of us recently completed the PREPaRE1 and PREPaRE2 trainings offered by the Department of Psychological Services, which has us thinking about school safety and crisis prevention and intervention.

The PREPaRE trainings were developed by the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), together with leading national experts in school crisis prevention and response.  (By the way, we would absolutely encourage all school administrators to register for the next session of PREPaRE1 training, if you haven’t already completed it.)  PREPaRE1 is a 1-day workshop that provides a “broad overview of the school crisis team’s roles and responsibilities, with a special emphasis on crisis prevention and preparedness.”  PREPaRE2 is a 2-day workshop that “provides a specific examination of the school-based mental health professionals’ roles and responsibilities, with a special emphasis on crisis intervention and recovery.”  If you’d like to learn more about PREPaRE training, here is the link to the FAQ page from the NASP website.

This article from, entitled “Tech Doesn’t Solve All School Safety Concerns,” does a nice job of cautioning us to not become overly reliant on technology for protection.  Instead, it offers some excellent suggestions for improving our preparedness, including the following:

Student supervision. Discuss supervision with teachers and support staff. Talk about supervision at drop-off and pick-up areas, in hallways during class changes, in restrooms and stairwells, during breakfast and lunch periods, and in other common areas and hot spots.

Diversify drills. Conduct lockdown drills during lunch periods, between classes or as students arrive in the morning. Use reverse fire drills to time how quickly students and staff return inside after exiting the school. Block an exit, without announcing it to students and staff, to see how they would respond under different conditions.

Plan for evacuations and extended sheltering in place. Identify walking distance to various evacuation sites. Visit those sites and plan how you would set up operations in an emergency.

Practice the “five-minute rule.” Take five minutes at the end of each faculty or cabinet meeting to discuss one aspect of your emergency plans. Create a culture of regular safety conversations.

Create and test crisis communications plans. Parent-notification mechanisms, media-response plans and social media strategies are a part of many school preparedness measures today.”

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