I love Dan Siegel’s book, The Whole Brain Child and recommend you read it!  In easy to understand, everyday language, he both explains the development of brain and shows you how to support your children in becoming more mindful, self-aware, and self-regulating.  Throughout, Dr. Siegel clarifies how the components of our brains work and, how to work with these different parts for optimal integration and, thus, whole brain thinking.

self regulation activitiesWhen we, or our kids, are “triggered” and stuck in distress, worry, upset, anger, frustration, trauma, we are dis-integrated.  There’s a thought, or feeling, or memory that has hijacked us and is running the show, preventing us from thinking clearly or behaving appropriately.  To re-integrate takes an understanding of what is happening and a choice to use tools such as movement, reflection, story-telling, and emotional connection.

3 Self Regulation Activities

The 3 activities included in this blog support Dr. Siegel’s integration strategies.  They help to literally shift the brain physiology to allow the body to calm, the heart to open, and the right, left, lower, middle, and upper parts of the brain to reconnect. Teach them to your children to use to manage emotions and soothe stress, before they act out, or to bring them back to center.

self regulation skill

Oh No – Ah Yes!

Turn a frown upside down.
Name what you are disappointed about.
Notice and allow the sensations.
Massage your forehead along your hairline to
re-engage your neocortex/upper brain that can
understand, let go, and think up a new plan.

To help children fully engage with this technique and how they are shifting and soothing themselves, teach them to say this chant/poem as they massage and breathe:
When I feel – Oh No!!!
I hold my forehead,
Massage my brow,
Breathe in deeply
I know how …
I breathe out slowly
I let my fears sink
I feel my heart clear: bump-bump, bump-bump, bump-bump
Then, I think – Ah Yes!!
I know what to say…
It is going to be a wonderful day, anyway!

Donkey Kick

Donkey Kicks

Kick it off to calm down.

Exercise changes brain chemistry.  When emotion takes over, encourage kids to do some vigorous, aerobic movement, such as Donkey Kicks, which can be done almost anywhere, except the car.  This upside down move is an especially effective activity for regaining self-control when extremely angry, hurt, or upset.

Hands flat on floor under shoulders.  Come into a short Down Dog – hips up, feet and legs together.  Keep arms straight as you bend knees and then kick yourself with your heels. Loudly Bray Bray, Bray!!  Until you feel ready and able to problem-solve.

Deep Down Wisdom

Deep Down Wisdom

Hug yourself, feel your heart, remember to do what’s right.

Scared, anxious, overwhelmed, confused, or upset?
Connect with your inner strength and wise heart.
Sitting, standing, or lying down, just cross ankles
and extend arms out and cross wrists.  Then, turn
thumbs down, clap palms together, link fingers,
and roll them under to rest on your chest.
Close your eyes and breathe.  Let the air comes in with ease.
Think about something or someone you love … and listen to your heart.

To help children understand what they are doing when they choose this activity to self-regulate, teach them to say this chant/poem while they stay in the position and breathe:

Feel your upset melt away
As your wisdom comes to play
Your heart will know what’s best to do.
Listen deep down and let it guide you.

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