Using Calm-Down Strategies

In a previous post, we discussed strategies for helping your students  1) identify and 2) measure their emotions using the Feelings Chart and the Feelings Thermometer. This week, we shift our focus to the third and final step – helping students 3) manage their emotions.

Source: iStock/Little Girl Posing

After recognizing what it is that they are feeling, students need to know what to do with these feelings. Have you ever tried to reason with one of your students after their drawing accidentally gets ruined? How about when they have just been told that there isn’t enough time to play their favorite game? Most likely, it didn’t go so well! Just like adults, it’s hard for children to control what they do and say when their emotions become too strong. Calm-Down Strategies refer to different ways for students to calm their bodies when they are feeling (or starting to feel) overwhelmed by an emotion. Read on to explore some example strategies.

Calm-Down Strategies

  • Help student slowly count to ten.
  • Work through some deep belly breathing:

Breathe in for 2 seconds, hold for 2 seconds, breathe out for 3-4 seconds, repeat.

  • Use the Turtle Technique:

Guide students through four calm-down steps alongside “Tucker Turtle.” Materials can be found here. (For a refresher, see Introduction to the Turtle Technique.)

  • Progressive muscle relaxation:

Talk student through tighten and release of different body parts one at a time (e.g., clench and release toes, then legs, then thighs, etc.).

  • Calm-down phrases:

Say aloud or repeat a phrase that provides comfort and reassurance (e.g., “I’m right here with you.”, “We’ll get through this together.”).

  • Mental imagery:

Ask student to picture and describe aloud a favorite place or memory.

  • Take a break:

Provide a “calm-down spot” where students can take a break and regroup, or give opportunity to take a quick walk.

  • Alternative activity:
Source: iStock/Nadezhda1906

Provide opportunity to draw, color, listen to music, read a book, etc.

  • Fidget toys:

For those who could benefit from sensory input, have items available to channel their energy into (e.g., play-dough, stress ball).

Remember! Calm-Down strategies aren’t just for when students are at their limit. In fact, it is just as important to use these strategies when you notice an emotion starting to build in order to prevent it from becoming too strong!


More questions? VKRP provides support via the online chat feature when you are in the system, via email vkrp@virginia.edu, and via toll free 866-301-8278 ext. 1