Ways to Help Kids Control Emotions

Going anywhere with multiple kids solo seems like a huge feat some days but taking your kids to the beach solo makes you feel like you should win an award. First of all, there is all of the CRAP that is involved. There is the beach chair, the blanket, the sand toys, the sun screen, the swim suits, the hats, the snacks… The list keeps on going! Then, you have to transfer all of the beach gear from the car to the beach. Okay, so you load up the stroller (which at this point looks like a pack mule), you have the kids in tow and you head towards the water! Wow, okay… Hope the beach trip is worth it, lol!

My girls and I recently met a friend and her two kids at the beach for a play date. We had a ton of fun playing in the white wash, we ate some snacks, and we played with sand toys! But after too many “near death experiences” because my toddler is fearless (okay, not really… I am being a little dramatic here!), we decided to call it a day!

Two Kids Playing at the beach

At this point, we were back on the beach and my 4.5-year-old started to get the wet sticky sand all over her. Now, this princess of mine DOES NOT like getting dirty so this was enough to give her some major anxiety. Caira immediately started to say that she wanted to go home to get clean, she wanted to get dressed and she did NOT like the sand! I started to see the signs of a potential meltdown.

I immediately went into “practitioner” mode. I had a 20-month-old who was on the verge of losing it because she needed lunch and a nap and I did not need TWO upset children. Here are three suggestions that may help a child gain control over their emotions.


Breathing Techniques– One thing that I like to do with Caira is practice breathing techniques when I see that her emotions are starting to become out of control. We call it ‘volcano breaths’ (i.e. She starts with her hands in prayer position by her belly. She takes a deep breath and raises them above her head and then separates as she breaths out). This helps to calm her body while also working on deep breathing.

I found this AMAZING video that could be a fantastic resource for your child. It explains mindfulness and also the use of breathing techniques to reduce frustration and and how breathing could aid in coping skills. This could be a great conversation starter to help teach your little one about using breathing techniques when they start feeling angry or out of control with their emotions


Validated Feelings- After Caira calmed down using breathing techniques with ‘volcano breaths’, I validated her feelings. I made sure she understood that I was trying to recognize and accept her feelings.

Validation is a great way to show your child that you are trying to understand what they are going through. It also shows that you are being present and helps to increase your child’s level of emotional intelligence by allowing further discussions on emotion.


Taking Control– I also wanted Caira to take control of her emotions. I knew in that moment, her biggest motivator was that she wanted to go home and get clean so I started to ask her what tasks needed to be accomplished for us to leave the beach. I couldn’t do ANYTHING about the the TONS and TONS of sand surrounding us. But what I could do was help her find comfort in finding activities that she COULD CONTROL. Even as adults, if you focus on tasks that you have NO control over, it increases your anxiety but if you start focusing on items that you can do something about, it tends to provide more security. This is no different in children.

We agreed that we needed to clean up all of our beach CRAP (okay, my words not hers, LOL) so we could leave. I then asked her if she wanted to focus on the sand toys or the beach blanket. She immediately got to work helping me clean up! We acted as a team, put our pack mule back together (i.e. the stroller) and we headed back to the car without either child falling apart… Success!

Happy kids playing in the sand

So, in this situation, helping your cutie focus on value added tasks that will work towards the end goal may help them regulate their emotions. In the above situation, my daughter did NOT like that she felt dirty and sandy. Instead of just telling her to stop crying, I validated those feelings and we focused on ways to expedite our exit!


But seriously… My next task- getting my little SoCal girl to tolerate the sand considering it is EVERYWHERE around here… One thing at a time I guess. Rome wasn’t built in a day :)!


(Video was originally posted mindful.org) 

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