The holidays can be an especially hard time for kids who struggle with anxiety, sensory issues or special needs. As a parent, it can even seem as though your child is sabotaging the holidays. For times when some of our kids struggle with handling big emotions, we have a calm down kit for them to use. It has made such a difference. One of our daughters was beginning to struggle more than usual because of the Christmas season so I decided to make her this Christmas Calm Down Kit.
Anti-anxiety kits help kids feel more in control of their emotions and reactions. I find that it’s best to clarify how the kit works and explain all the tools when your child is already calm. Introduce them to the holiday calm down kit and explain how each item can be used when they start to feel anxious. Reassure them that if one item doesn’t work, they can try another until they find the one that’s right for them at that time.
All of the items and ideas should be practised ahead of time. Offer encouragement and praise, but avoid the temptation to suggest which coping strategy they should use unless you see an escalation in their anxiety or it becomes obvious that they need your direction.
Remember that when your child is in a state of fight, flight or freeze, it becomes harder for them to access the reasoning part of their brain.
Our Christmas Calm Down Kit:
- Christmas book
- red marble fidget
- homemade sensory ball using a Christmas balloon
- Christmas glow sticks
- homemade gingerbread playdough
- candy canes
- hot chocolate packets
- jingle bells
- Christmas calm down bottle
- holiday themed sensory bag
- bubble gum
- printed Christmas colouring pages and markers
I created printable cards that can serve as reminders of some of her calm down tools. You can print the cards, cut them out, hole punch them and put them on a binder ring. You can also cut some extra and create your own if you have other ideas of calm down strategies that work well for your child.
Get your free printable Christmas Calm Down cards here.
Most of the calm down cards don’t require much explanation, but to talk to your kids how to “belly breathe like Santa”, have them imagine Santa’s big belly and then breathe in to fill their belly like Santa’s. Have them put their hand on their stomach so that they can feel it fill up with air and then deflate when they exhale.
Other Items for Your Christmas Calm Down Kit:
- noise cancelling headphones (perfect for loud holiday events)
- Christmas punch balloons
- Conair Sound Therapy machine (we have one included in our regular Anti-Anxiety kit and love it)
- homemade Peppermint Essential Oil Playdough (keep in mind that peppermint is an alerting scent)
- Rescue Remedy for Kids (natural stress relief drops that seem to really help our daughter if they are given at the beginning of her anxiety episode)
- Rescue Remedy Gum (full disclosure – some of our kids love it and others hate the taste)
- palm massager
- books on expressing feelings (our list is here)
- Christmas kaleidoscope
- a fuzzy Christmas blanket
- special stuffed animal
- weighted neck roll
- holiday coloured pinwheel
- small plastic snowglobe (will act in a similar way to a calm down bottle)
- Christmas tree shaped chewie
I actually had to help my daughter use her Christmas calm down kit earlier tonight. I found it ironic that I knew I would be writing about this later and was putting it to good use right beforehand. When I write about these kind of things, rest assured that it is coming from first-hand, up-close-and-personal experience!
The calm down strategy that worked especially well for my daughter tonight was humming a Christmas carol. She was having a hard time regulating her breathing and behaviour before that, but her crying stopped, her breathing slowed and she was able to start calming herself after trying that visual prompt idea.
The humming provides a lot of natural calming benefits. Humming regulates breathing which lowers your heart rate. It helps to activate the parasympathetic nervous system which also lowers heart rate. It helps you to feel more peaceful as your thoughts become clearer. Humming also releases endorphins, which makes you feel happier. It makes sense that it helped her get back to a more regulated state.
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