Who'd have guessed that one of our favourite drinks can also help calm our children down! Read on to find out more about the 'Hot Chocolate Method' from Dan, our Primary Counsellor.
When children are in the grip of anxiety or anger, we often respond to the cognitive-thinking brain first with rational information such as, ‘there’s nothing to worry about’ or ‘calm down!’
This is completely understandable, but it just won’t work.
An anxious or angry brain is a mighty powerful brain, so it’s important to work with it, rather than against it.
When anxious or angry, breathing changes from strong and steady to short and shallow. When breathing quickens and shallows out, it encourages and amplifies the cascade of physiological changes connected to the fight or flight response. These changes are crucial to why anxiety feels the way it does.
The Answer? Always respond to the ‘primitive brain’ first. Re-engage the primitive brain by gently encouraging strong, steady breathing. Model a strong, steady breath to your child.
I recommend the 'Hot Chocolate (or Milo) Method' for younger children.
The breath is our most basic and most powerful support. Even better, it is always there as a resource and barometer. When breathing is strong and steady, so are we, but it’s the first to go when anxiety hits. Strong, steady breathing will start to neutralise the neurochemical surge and cool physiological symptoms.
Something to keep in mind though, is that during anxious or angry moments, the brain is somewhat too busy to do things that don’t feel familiar. To make strong, steady breathing a more available response, encourage your child to practise breathing techniques when they are calm. Practice soon after waking and before bed to ‘bookend the day’ with strong and steady breath. When anxiety or anger appears over the course of the day, it’s then a case of re-membering their breath and themselves.