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Finding Calm in the Midst of a Meltdown

A common concern I often hear from parents is that they too have a hard time getting calm when their child is escalated. Taking time out for meditation, yoga or mindfulness exercises, though beneficial in the long term, aren’t really appropriate in the short term when you need to be physically present to help your child de-escalate. Here are four simple strategies to practice now and add to your parent survival basket to help you find calm in the middle of your child’s meltdowns. 

Square Breathing

Square Breathing (also known as 4-Part Breath or Box Breathing) can be done anywhere and you can teach your children to do it anywhere as well. This is a simple mindfulness technique that can help reduce stress and bring you back into the present moment. 

image via

This picture above illustrates the simple process: 

  1. Breathe in through your nose for 4 counts.
  2. Pause and hold your breath for 4 counts.
  3. Exhale through your mouth for 4 counts.
  4. Pause and hold your breath for 4 counts. 

You can download this jpeg and print it on a card or enlarge it and put it on the wall in your child’s room. We recommend adding this technique to a ‘Calm Basket’ – a collection of items that your child (she may need your input) puts into a box or basket that has a special place in her room. When your child is having an escalated moment, you can suggest that she go up to her room and find something in the Calm Basket to help her de-escalate. Besides the square breathing technique, you could fill the basket with books, Legos, stuffed animals, puzzles, coloring books and crayons. The list is endless – the key is to pack it with items that will help her calm down and find her center. 

The next three are easy relaxation techniques from Dr. Oz: 

Scrunch Your Face

This technique comes from Dr. Oz. Scrunch your face tightly for 15 seconds, then release. Repeat several times. The repetitive contraction and relaxation helps release tension you’re holding above the neck. 

Breathe In

Breathe in through your nose. While holding your breath, lick your lips, then blow out slowly through your mouth. The cool air helps you refocus and slow down. Do this several times till you notice your breathing/heart rate has started slowing down. 

Cork It

Hold a wine cork vertically between your teeth. Putting a gentle bite on the cork forces your jaws – a major holder of tension – to relax. (BTW, Dr. Oz adds, “. . . to not fight stress by emptying the bottle of wine into your body first.”

The Parent Survival Basketis a 6-session workshop designed to give parents support and strategies for long term sustainable changes, changes that are specifically tailored to your family. In addition to information about ADHD and Executive function the workshop also covers strategies to increase Calm, Connection, Compassion and Communication. For more information about the Parent Survival Basket workshop please email

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