The Art of Self-Soothing: Calming Strategies for All Ages
Stress is hard-wired into our earliest memories and emotions. As babies, we are pulled into an unfamiliar world where the cold air, strange textures, and state of separation put our nervous system to its first test. Comforted by the cozy heat of momma’s skin and soothing cuddles, our panicked crying and flailing transforms into a state of calm.
Every day, we experience stress and learn (then practice) the art of self-soothing in response. The older we get, the more nuanced our stressors and coping mechanisms become, but it’s still the same challenge.
How can we experience the harsh realities of the world, then mindfully overcome them?
In last month’s blog post, we discussed the power of demonstrating self-care for kids. Today, we’re exploring strategies for self-soothing and the magic of stress management at every stage of life:
Blissful babies can find comfort in their bodies.
Even before newborns develop proprioception (the awareness of our limbs and body movement), they use their bodies as a tool for self-soothing – like sucking, cooing and vocalizing, turning their head, reaching their arms, and lifting their legs.
Reinforce these habits by working them into your mommy-led calming routines. For example, while you’re shushing and quietly babbling to your baby in the crib, practice gently lifting their legs and letting them fall.
You can also try swaddling your baby with their arms up (like this) so that they always have a hand close by to suck on for comfort.
Quiet toddlers can use the magic of distraction.
Most toddlers repeat and tweak the self-soothing habits that they learned as infants. With guidance, toddlers can learn to calm themselves down and manage intense emotions in less physical ways. This transitional period takes time and patience.
Early on, distractions are an easy alternative. Help your toddler shift their focus to something else, like touching a security item, repeating a familiar phrase, touching and naming their body parts, or singing a short song. These coping activities are child-led, so they can take control even when you’re not there.
Calm kids can tap into their breathing.
Tuning into your breathing is still a form of distraction, but one with mindful roots. Breathwork is particularly effective because it combines physical and mental calming benefits. Deep breaths literally send signals to your brain to combat physical stress responses, like a racing heart and high blood pressure.
Plus, there are so many deep breathing variations that you can teach your child. With every slow, deep breath, kids can count, envision a looping circle, repeat a positive word, picture a new detail of their happy place, or tense and relax a part of their body.
This ‘big kid’ coping strategy is more convenient for parents, too – no more meltdowns when their security item accidentally gets left behind at home!
Tranquil teens can process emotions with a blank page.
Journaling, drawing, doodling, making lists, folding origami… a blank page has the power to rescue your teen from challenging emotions and experiences. Our handcrafted journals aren’t only designed for parents! With a wrap-around dori tassel, teens can work through their feelings on the page and then close the book for privacy in a handbound, safe space.
There’s something magical about uncapping a pen, folding back a page, and letting your stress melt away with every stroke of ink. If they’re in a pinch, typing and drawing in the notes app on their phone can do the trick, too.
Mindful mommies can reclaim peace in a safe space.
It feels like a victory to control your emotions and remain calm in the heat of the moment, but what about afterwards? We often have a habit of stashing the stress away and hiding it under the surface so that we can be present and positive for everyone else.
Create a quiet, safe space where you can let the tears flow, wiggle away the tension, and speak your truth without any judgment. As mothers, we owe it to ourselves to follow up self-soothing with true healing. This moment is yours – embrace it.