Finding Calm in the Midst of a Meltdown

By Sally Kidder Davis, M.Ed., PCI Certified® Parent Coach

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

Square Breathing

Square Breathing (also known as The 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 to help reduce stress and bring you back into the present moment.

The 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.

We recommend adding this technique to a ‘Calm Basket’ – a collection of items that your child places into a box or basket that has a special place in their room (they may need your input on what to include). Besides the square breathing technique, you could fill the basket with books, Legos, stuffed animals, puzzles, coloring books and crayons; the options are endless. The key is to pack it with items that will help them calm down and find their center. When your child is having an escalated moment, you can suggest that they go to their room and find something in the Calm Basket to help de-escalate.

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

Scrunch Your Face

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, and then blow out slowly through your mouth. The cool air helps you refocus and slow down. Do this several times until you notice that your breathing and heart rate have 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.


Sally Kidder Davis, M.Ed., PCI Certified® Parent Coach

Sally Kidder Davis, M.Ed., PCI Certified® Parent Coach

If staying calm in the midst of your child’s meltdown has been difficult for you, we offer The Parent Survival Basket, a six-session workshop designed to give parents support and strategies for long-term, sustainable changes that are specifically tailored to your family.

In addition to strategies to increase calm in your home, we provide information about ADHD, executive function, connection, compassion, and communication. We offer the workshop in person at our centers in Seattle, Kirkland or online to anywhere in the world.

Find out more about The Parent Survival Basket.