Practice staying calm even when you are upset, and teach kids the techniques they can use to remain calm and let them know about the dividends of self-control.
Why the Proliferation of “Keep Calm” Messages?
For the past couple of years, everywhere I go, I see a T-shirt, a coffee cup, a sign, or product of some kind urging me to: “Keep Calm and ___“ (fill in the blank with “Fish,” Vote,” Drink Tea,” “Hang Your Coats Here,” etc.); or the variation: “Keep Calm and Carry on ___” (“Drinking,” “Laughing,” “Going to Disneyland,” etc.). It has become the popular vehicle for communicating philosophies, advertisements, messages, and ideas.
This old statement was first seen on the motivational posters of the British government in 1939 that urged citizens to “Keep Calm and Carry On.” The message was intended to raise the morale of the British public who were under the threat of air attacks on their major cities in the approaching World War II.
Why has the message resurged and become so popular? Maybe it is because the world has become so fast-paced that people everywhere recognize we are under assault from life itself and it is exhausting to try and stay on top of everything–even our kids are anxious.
Children Often Experience Great Anxiety
Children worry about their grades in school, their acceptance by their peers, how well they play games or their position on their sports teams, their skill at using constantly changing technology, and the requirement to obey rules they don’t always remember or understand or care about. Older children start to worry about the state of the world, the ongoing wars, the environment, their future and the future of those they know and love.
Dial Down the Anxiety Starting With Your Own
You can’t control the state of the world or how people behave, but you can control how you react to what happens in life. Your children see how you react and they learn from your responses what works and what doesn’t and what is acceptable and what isn’t. It also helps to talk to them directly about how to stay calm and why self-control is important.
These are well-recognized methods for controlling anxiety:
- Use relaxing techniques such as breathing in deeply from your diaphragm, and breathing out slowly. You can perfect calming methods with yoga training.
- Repeat a calming and comforting phrase or words to yourself as you are practicing your controlled breathing such as “stay calm,” “this too shall pass,” “relax.”
- Give yourself time to compose yourself before you talk to your spouse or your child when you are angry and upset–a self-imposed timeout, as it were, a timeout to meditate.
Teach Your Children How to Stay Calm
Pass along calming techniques to your children and explain why they work:
- Controlled breathing and repeating comforting statements have calming effects.
- Giving yourself a bit of time before you react keeps you from over-reacting, and saying things that are too hurtful, too angry, or unjustified and alienating to those around you.
- Staying calm keeps people from reacting to your emotions rather than the situation.
- Staying calm allows you and others to work out a solution to a problem instead of requiring people to calm you down before a solution can be found.
Make it clear that it is perfectly acceptable and desirable to express emotions of fear, anger, grief, and anxiety. However, losing all control and flying into a rage and hitting people, breaking things, reacting with endless sobbing and shrieking, or self-destructive behaviours are not suitable ways of dealing with problems.
Explain the Payoffs for Practicing Self-Control
It’s important to keep calm enough to talk and listen even through your tears and fears:
- good communication can still take place
- people can use logic rather than emotions to solve problems
Although feelings are valid and should be expressed, fighting and engaging in reckless behaviors are not acceptable reactions for anyone of any age. Not all problems have solutions and it is important to learn to accept what can’t be changed and work on how to react and cope with unpleasant realities. Teach kids to stay calm even when they are upset. It helps them avoid hurting themselves and others by making bad, impulsive decisions.
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