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Calm Down: A Menu

If you’ve got kids at home now 24/7 and are also trying to work from the same space – home – good luck. School, home and work, of course, used to be in separate places. Welcome to our new reality. Add to this the angst of keeping our loved ones safe from the coronavirus, plus […]

If you’ve got kids at home now 24/7 and are also trying to work from the same space – home – good luck. School, home and work, of course, used to be in separate places.

Welcome to our new reality.

Add to this the angst of keeping our loved ones safe from the coronavirus, plus getting along with each other, plus the worries all this generates, and we have a more compelling need than ever to find a way, somehow, to keep calm so we can navigate this new reality.

I’ve put together a sampler, a selection of proven practices that can calm your child down as well as some designed to help him or her or them be kinder (which, it turns out, also calms – and makes the kind person happier).

Here are five methods, a menu to graze, called Focus for Kids It offers kid-level (roughly ages five through eleven) instructions for:


 Focus on Your Breath, a way to enhance a child’s concentration, which also has a strong calming effect – a two-for one.


 Scan, where your child uses his or her mind like radar to pick up whatever sensations are in various parts of the kid’s arm – this both focuses and relaxes, too.


 Focus on Listening, where the child listens intently to a sound until it disappears – a quick way to concentrate and calm. Great for little kids.


 Just Like Me has your child see the ways in which he or she is similar to other kids – a way to teach tolerance.


 Kindness, where your child wishes for himself or herself good health, happiness, and the like – and then extends those wishes in an ever-widening circle starting with family and finally to the whole world.

Focus for Kids was designed for littler kids. But for teens there’s a more age-appropriate version of the same practices. One difference: the scan goes through the whole body, not just an arm.

Then there’s you. Children are emotion detectors. Virtually no one will be as sensitive to your emotional state, and to being influenced by it, than your child (and, of course, your partner if you have one).

So if you want to help your child be more calm and clear, first take care of yourself. You can try Focus for Excellence, which offers similar mind training practices, but in adult versions.

You or your child (or both) can try out each practice until you find one (or maybe two) to stick with. Then spend a few minutes every day with that method, whatever it is. The more time you put into practicing, the greater the benefits will be.

For decades I’ve tracked the research on what actually helps us find calm. For some people it’s through our body, for others it’s through our mind itself. And it turns out researchers find that thinking of kindness toward others also calms us – and makes us happy. So these samplers
include all these approaches.

Another powerful program was developed by my old friend Jon Kabat-Zinn. It’s called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, or MBSR. This program offers a more intense, longer mindfulness session weekly. I recommend MBSR for those who have already been meditating and want a refresher, or for anyone who wants a deep dive into meditation practice.

And then there are methods that let you be more resilient and adaptive in how you respond to major stresses like those we face daily now. This free two-week (but just a few minutes each
day) training is here.


Our mind is ours to manage. Good luck!

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