Therapy Techniques for Supporting your Child through a Breakdown

It can be overwhelming to watch your child experience a crisis. When a child’s emotions are out of control, their nervous system is flooded and it may seem impossible to console them. As their parent, however, you have the ability to create a safe space for them to work through their emotions towards regulation. This is often easier said than done.

At Decade2Connect, we see many parents asking the question, “what do I do?” So many parents are willing to show up for their child but find themselves at a loss as to what to do next.. Furthermore, when every child has different needs, it can be difficult to know where to start. Our therapists implement techniques and exercises of mindfulness and are available to share these techniques with parents.

First, ensure that your child is safe. If your child’s putting themselves or anyone else in danger, be sure to intervene; if the behavior persists over time, seek professional help. Once your child is in a safe space, below are a few tips for supporting your child through a breakdown:

Deep Breathing

We often lose control over our emotions when we lose touch with our body felt senses: the most imperative of these being breathwork. You’ll find a child (or anybody, for that matter) may often respond to a crisis by a quickening of breath, leading to a domino effect with the rest of the nervous system. Encourage your child to focus on their breathing, taking their mind off racing thoughts.

One effective breathing technique specific to anxiety is to have your child breathe in for a count of 2-4 and breathe out for double that time. The counting will refocus their mind as they’re grounding themselves.

The Five Senses Exercise

To help ground your child, this exercise can often be helpful and building awareness and bringing us back to our bodies: 

Sit back, take a deep breath and notice the following:5 things you see
4 things you feel
3 things you hear
2 things you smell
1 thing you taste
It’s especially effective to join your child in this exercise.

Let it Out!

Sometimes, the best way around is through. It may be uncomfortable but if your child is in a safe environment, give them space to feel their feelings. While our instinct is to avoid intense emotions, letting them run their course can actually result in a greater peace and feeling of relief. Don’t you feel better after releasing a long cry? If you give your child space to release their emotions, chances are they will feel more relief because of it. Keeping feelings locked away doesn’t help. Learning to deal with feelings in a safe way teaches kids that they don’t have to deny their feelings to deal with them. 

While these techniques can be incredibly helpful, you may still be incredibly overwhelmed. It’s important to recognize when professional support is needed and know where to find it. Our therapists at Decade2Connect support children and families in crisis daily and are available to walk alongside you through these moments. 

Ultimately, what matters most is your presence. Your being a support through your child’s mental health needs creates a safe space for them, ultimately building their trust and leading to hope and healing. If your family is overwhelmed and needs support, our team is available to support you and your family.

Our Intensive Outpatient Program is in-network with United!