By Jennifer Robertson, Founder and President of Chicago Kids Yoga LLC

People may think that the time after lunch (and if you’re lucky after nap time) is a breeze. Everyone is fed and happy and the afternoon is a mix of strolling in the park and chalking faces with great big smiles. And while sometimes it does work out that way, sometimes it doesn’t.

Either the nap wasn’t in the plan, or lunchtime was a battle of carrots versus cupcakes. Whatever the case may be, even when we try our hardest, sometimes the unexpected happens and we are all out of balance. The kids are fighting. They can’t be soothed. You feel frustrated. Everyone starts to lose their tempers…you know the story.

We’ve all been there, so I created a quick cheat sheet for soothing the situation (for all parties) and restoring some calm. As always, only do what you and your kids are capable of and mix and match what is right for you.

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1) Close your eyes

I know this may seem weird, but trust me. Secure the baby, sit the kids down cross-legged position in front of you, and explain that you are all going to close your eyes for a few moments. Reassure the kids you’re not going back to sleep, it’s called tuning in and it helps us become happier.

Closing our eyes when tensions flare up is critically important, especially when we feel we can’t get out of the anger spiral.

First, closing our eyes disconnects all the visual stimuli that is fueling the fury and allows for a deeper connection of self. Second, it gives space to quiet the breath and the mind.

Encourage the kids like a game. Ask what the kids “see” when they close their eyes. Ask how they feel when they close their eyes. Do an exploration using your imagination and tell some stories.

2) Oxygenate the brain

Sit the kids down cross-legged with you (or if you have babies, try this one yourself) and explain that you are going to do a special type of breathing and you use your hands. Most kids will look at you funny. Breathing with your hands? Tell them it’s true and you will show them something super special to use when they need it.

Share with the kids that they are like super heroes. Just like super heroes need either their cape or their armor (or Popeye needs his spinach!) our brains need oxygen. If we increase the amount of oxygen moving in and out of our bodies, we can feel much better.

It’s going to look strange the first time, but stick with it. For adults we use a special mudra, or hand position, but for kids we just start cross-legged. Breathe in and bring the pointer finger on the right hand to close the right nostril and exhale out of the left nostril. On the next inhale bring the left pointer finger to the left nostril and release the right pointer finger that’s on the right nostril so you are switching back and forth with long, deep breathing. Repeat several times and watch a sense of calm come over your little ones. Now they are ready to feel like powerful super heroes again!

3) Trees in the wind

This is a good sensory integration technique to try if the kids aren’t ready to sit down. Keep them standing with their feet slightly wider than their hips. Encourage the kids to let their arms be heavy like tree branches and turn their torso side to side looking over each shoulder. While doing this they can let their arms flop one way and then the other way.

Tell them to imagine they are big, steady, tall trees with branches flying in the strong wind. You can go slow and feel the weight of the arms and legs or go a little faster and use pretend play. What forest are you in? Which kind of tree are you? What do you see all around you?

By doing this kids will feel a connectedness to the earth and loosen the tension in their shoulders and back. This is great for all ages, and especially school-age kids who need to unwind after the classroom before homework time.

4) Get grounded

If kids are having a hard time listening or following you, you might want to sit in a crouched position to feel more grounded and connected.

With legs a little wide bend at the knees to bring your hips toward the ground. You’ll want your feet firmly on the ground so adjust as necessary so there isn’t any strain on knees or any part of the body. You aren’t sitting, you are hovering just above the ground and can close your eyes if you’d like.

In yoga class, we bring our palms to touch at the center of our chest (we call it anjali mudra) and often use our elbows against the inside of our knees for balance and support. Stay for a few moments with long, deep breaths.

5) Create a peace area

Years ago when we had enormous closets we created a peace area for the kids and they found quiet respite there when they needed to recharge and change the energy.

Your peace area can be anywhere away from stimulation. In our peace area we only had calming books, a few pillows and some paper and coloring pencils. No one spoke in the peace area and we honored that time when the kids needed to go in and just reflect and be quiet. We all need that sometimes. No questions asked.

Since the space isn’t related to punishment of any kind, it’s an uplifting area kids can use whenever they need to, and works great as a reward for a hard day at school, or when they want time away from siblings.

Check in with the kids and ask how they feel. These check-ins will often illuminate whatever tension or problem was bothering them before. With this quiet opportunity to reflect, the kids can get some perspective and be able to verbalize what is happening in their lives. That helps us all to support them grow in a healthy and balanced way.

The good news is that these options don’t take a lot of time. You may find you use one strategy more than another when the need arises or you may want to use them at different times for different situations. Use them how it feels best for you, and especially when the afternoon seems to be taking a turn for the worst.

Remember – there’s always time to change the energy and improve the mood. Always.

The light in me sees the light in you.  

For more information, visit us at ChicagoKidsYoga.com.

About Jennifer

Jennifer Robertson, RYT (Registered Yoga Teacher), RCYT (Registered Children’s Yoga Teacher) is the Founder and President of Chicago Kids Yoga LLC and Event Director of the #ChicagoKidsYogaFest, an all-day free festival at the Garfield Park Conservatory on August 17, 2-14 from 10am – 10pm celebrating music, movement, meditation and play for al ages.