October is full of fun for kids. Make this time of year “Mightier” with our Halloween themed coping skills activities. These are a great way to practice emotional regulation with your child, while celebrating the season.
Ghost Deep Breathing
For Adults: Deep breathing increases the amount of oxygen to your brain and body. This stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps us to feel calmer.
For Kids: This Halloween, try to breathe like a ghost! Imagine you are the friendly ghost in the picture below. Breathe in deeply through your nose for 5 seconds, pushing your belly out as you are breathing in. Hold your ghost breath for 5 seconds. Then open your mouth to make a round ghost mouth. Breathe out slowly through your mouth for 5 seconds, whispering, “Booooooooo…”. Keep repeating that over and over until you feel like a calm and friendly ghost.
Crossing the Midline Like a Mummy
For Adults: Crossing the Midline happens anytime we cross one part of our body to the opposite side (for example tapping your left hand to your right shoulder then your right hand to your left shoulder). Crossing the midline requires the right and left hemispheres of the brain to communicate across a thick band of nerve fibers called the corpus callosum. Activating the corpus callosum makes it stronger, which makes it easier for the brain to process information, perform tasks, manage emotions, and regulate activities such as breathing, speech, and physical activity.
For Kids: To practice crossing the midline, pretend you are a funny mummy who is trying to wrap itself up with a roll of cloth. Pretend to hold the roll in your left hand, then stretch it across your body to your right shoulder. Then pretend to pick up the coth in your right hand and bring it across to your left shoulder. Slowly go back and forth a few times until you feel all wrapped up like a calm and funny mummy.
Black Cat Progressive Muscle Relaxation
For Adults: Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) is based on the idea that muscle tension is the body’s response to anxiety-provoking thoughts, and that muscle relaxation eases anxiety and lowers heart rate. The technique involves first tensing then relaxing different muscle groups.
For Kids: Black cats love Halloween. Even cats can get frightened though and might need some help calming down. Let’s pretend to be a black cat together. Imagine being a black cat and seeing something scary. Maybe it is a shadow that looks like a monster! When cats get scared, they tense all of their muscles from their paws to their tail like in the picture below. Squeeze and tense all of your muscles from your toes to your head and hold them tight for 5 seconds. Then pretend the cat realized that what they saw was not scary at all! Maybe the shadow was just a kid in a Halloween costume! The cat would then relax all of its muscles. Relax all your muscles just like the cat and shake your muscles out. Pretend to be a black cat over and over until your body and brain feel calmer.
Jack O’Lantern Mindful Tracing
For Adults: Mindful tracing is a low-arousal activity that can help focus the mind and lower heart rate. Tracing physical lines on paper or in your environment or imaginary lines provides a chance to regulate and refocus.
For Kids: Using the picture below or using your own Jack O’Lantern, slowly trace along the outlines of the carved sections of the Jack O’Lantern with your finger. While you are doing this, try your best to focus on the lines and how your finger feels tracing them. Trace the lines of the Jack O’Lantern until your brain and body feel a bit more focused.
Note from Mightier Clinicians
Finding the coping skills exercises that work best for your kids can take time and a bit of thoughtful experimentation. Enlist your kids to help you find techniques that work for them. Keep a written list of the best strategies you find, or create a relaxation nook that provides access to several different emotional regulation activities. In no time at all, the whole family will be finding ways to relax and have fun together.