A simple way to help the whole family feel calmer; have everyone create a “calm list”

Having a “go to” list of activites to calm our bodies and minds is not just a goal for my kids. I need this list for myself, now more than ever. This lets kids know that everyone experiences all different emotions and everyone has different ways of helping them work through these emotions. Particularly, the bigger, more complicated ones.

The slower pace of life is helping me spend time thinking about what I really enjoy and what should go on my list. The idea of a “calm list” is to identify items you enjoy, that bring you peace, help you feel calm, or help reset your mind from overwhelmed to relaxed.

Some of the items on the list may be the same for each family member and some might be different. It is important to note that not all of these are going to work for every situation. There are so many variables to consider that are going to impact which item on your list helps for each particular moment. Time of day, level of exhaustion, hunger, and who is around are just some of the variables at play. For example, I can’t simply excuse myself to go watch Love is Blind while making my kids lunch at 11:30 AM, no matter how much that might help me in the moment!

However, the more time I spend thinking about things that help calm me, the more I realize how much control I do have right now. Most of the items on my list are free. The hardest part is remembering to do them.

So far, my “calm list” includes the following:

  • organize a space (a closet, drawer, cabinet, etc.)
  • go outside
  • drink water
  • look at pictures/videos of my kids (from moments I am not feeling frustrated with them)
  • go into a room by myself
  • listen to a podcast
  • clean
  • intentionally take slow, controlled breaths
  • eat a healthy snack
  • read
  • watch mindless TV
  • engage in some kind of exercise
  • snuggle my kids
  • read to my kids
  • do crafts
  • take a bath

Perhaps after the kids go to bed tonight, I will write up this list in a “crafty” way to help me decompress from the day. I will also think about where to put the list. The kitchen seems like the best spot, as that is the place we spend the most time and I need the most reminders about how to be calm.

On Instragram, I saw the following ideas posted by @littlemindsets targeted towards kids:

  • count to 10
  • sing a song
  • do a puzzle
  • close your eyes
  • color a picture
  • dance
  • kick a ball
  • lay down
  • talk to a friend
  • draw

In the book, “Are My Kids On Track?” written by David Thomas (and two other authors), he lists other options developed by 8th and 9th grade girls:

  • play with your dog
  • watch a funny movie
  • paint your nails
  • journal
  • text someone you trust
  • take pictures of nature
  • make a thankful list
  • write a song
  • read a devotional
  • think of people you love

Thomas also reminds us that “males often experience emotions with physicality attached to them.” He goes on to say, “When a boy can channel the physicality of the emotion into something useful, he can offset the possibility of hurting others (or himself).” He recommends that boys make a list of their 5 things that involve movement of some kind. They can also include other options such as those listed above but starting with movement is often beneficial:

  • jumping jacks
  • shooting hoops
  • running up and down the stairs
  • hitting a pillow
  • doing push ups
  • climbing a tree
  • jumping on a trampoline

How to start

There is no time like the present. This conversation could start at a meal, on your next walk, or while playing with your kids. When I heard Thomas speak, he recommended that everyone in the family have at least 5 items on their list. Variety is key as drawing or reading a book are not always going to work, or be feasible, the next time you are flooded with emotions.

The important part is recognizing that everyone has emotions and everyone needs strategies for processing those emotions. Identifying activites that calm our mind and body is a healthy first step to help ourselves and those we love.

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