October 19, 2016

A few weeks ago, when some friends and I were venting about the chaos of raising kids, dodging hormones, and generally just surviving until their eighteenth birthday, my friend told us about her easy-going child who occasionally sits on the couch and melts down.

What struck me about her comments wasn’t that her daughter has meltdowns—so does mine. What struck me was how she handles the situation. She tells her daughter to trust her and give her just ten minutes of time. Then they exercise. She figures that movement almost always makes you feel better. And it works!

This creative approach got me thinking about other constructive ways to deal with the bad moods that are common in life with kids. I’ve often wondered how to handle these ups-and-downs in ways that address the underlying tensions and frustrations without trying to “talk them out of it.”  I want to teach my kids positive ways to deal with the grumps—whether they are caused by stress, fatigue, disappointment, or hormones. Here are some ideas for ways to tame the beast within (note: these work for both kids and adults):


Studies have shown that our brains process music differently than spoken words. How many times have you been moved by a song? We can use that to release negativity. Find some music that you like, and create a playlist that you can pull out when you are angry, tired, or stressed out. Whether it’s soothing classical music, or songs that make you get up and dance, music can give you some perspective and transform your mood.


My friend talked about using exercise to change her daughter’s frame of mind but the movement doesn’t have to be that intense or precise. You could dance to an upbeat song or do some jumping jacks. Get out into the fresh air for a walk or a run. Take the opposite route and slow things down with deep breathing and yoga stretches.

Change of Scenery

In my own life, I’ve found that getting near trees, by the ocean, or just about anywhere in nature changes my entire perspective. My worries and emotions even out. If a scenic option isn’t available, take your child (or yourself, when you have the grumps)  to a museum, or drop in on a friend.

Physical Touch

As I trained to be a teacher, we learned about non-verbal communication methods and soothers for children on the autism spectrum. To calm a child who is having trouble communicating—and this is not just a problem for special needs children—it helps to apply pressure to their bodies in the form of a giant, gentle hug. If your child resists hugging when she is upset, sit next to her quietly with just a shoulder touching, or an arm around her shoulders.

As a parent, you know your child best, of course. Some kids need alone time when they’re grumpy, others need tea and sympathy If these approaches don’t work, try to think of other out-of-the-box way to get through the “grumps”—and to the heart of your child.