How to Breathe Calmly Through Your Kid’s Next Roblox Rage Rant
Learn a self-regulation strategy that will help you through the eggshell moments, then once you're calm, rethink your family's screen health.
YouTube, social media, and video games provide kids, teens and adults with an endless bag of brain candy designed to keep us engaged “just a little longer.” Our kids get hooked, negotiate for more screen time, lose interest in other things and wind up in bottomless digital rabbit holes, creating unwanted stress in the family and mental health issues.
Two things are true:
We need help from experts, especially with a challenge as big as screen time battles.
We can focus on ourselves and our own habits. I’m not judging your doom scroll, I’m talking about the habit of self-regulation.
Do you have a go-to self-regulation strategy?
One you can turn to during (or after) your kid’s meltdown to center yourself? Or, is your nervous system ever-vigilant, trying to manage any variable that might cause your kid to blow their stack? If you don’t know what to do to shift that dynamic, you’re not alone. That’s where I can help.
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Walking on eggshells feels awful. When your nerves are in a perpetually hyper-aroused state, your fight-flight mode is switched on and jammed. You won’t be able to take in new information in this state, because your nervous system is focused only on survival. As long as your life is actually not currently threatened, it is a mismatch that is undermining your energy and your ability to communicate.
You can do something to retrain your nervous system so it isn’t stuck in the state of sympathetic arousal! Then, your brain will be available to take in new information and help your family make pivotal changes. You will be ready to learn to help your kids use tech in healthy ways that support, not undermine, living your best social, emotional, and cognitive life.
Here’s a self-regulation strategy you can apply to your life right now, no matter how intense your home environment is. I know it is simple. Simple is good!
Breathing is an efficient way to shift your nervous system towards calm. Diaphragmatic breathing, Adham Pranayama, or belly breath, helps me feel more grounded when my emotions are running the show. It is a great foundational breath pattern that you can teach your kids once you are comfortable with it yourself. They can imagine blowing up and deflating a balloon inside their belly.
Put a hand on your belly.
Observe the natural flow of your breath.
Without forcing, inhale so the bottom third of your lungs expands downward, beyond the bottom of your ribcage. Allow your belly to rise and your waist to puff up. Breathe towards the back of your waist too.
As you breathe out, passively deflate your belly. Let it out slowly.
Keep your chest and shoulders relaxed, sending your breath down low.
Keep it going for a few breaths.
Of course your lungs don’t actually extend into your belly. Your diaphragm muscle domes downward like a bowl to expand the bottom of your lungs. The contents of your belly need to make room for that movement. That is why relaxing your belly like a buddha helps you breathe more fully. When you breathe out, your diaphragm returns to its resting state, which is like an umbrella shape. You don’t need to actively deflate. Simply allow the softness at your belly and observe its movement.
You might find yourself yawning. Yawning is encouraged!
Notice how you feel after practicing Grounding Breath.
The science behind this grounding breath (and yawning) has to do with your vagus nerve. Its lower branches are hooked up to your lungs and gut, which send signals up to your limbic brain that you are safe.
Every new practice takes time to get the hang of, so don’t expect changes immediately. On the other hand, if you feel no benefit at all, maybe it isn’t the right practice for you.
If the breathing isn’t calming, try something else:
Wiggle your toes.
Look around your space. Turn and look behind you.
Squeeze the web of your thumb.
Once you feel your nervous system shift away from fight-flight, you may see your family dynamics with more perspective and hope. That’s when new information can have a positive impact. That’s when you can get to the root of the issues. You need to feel grounded and safe first, then you can take a new direction.
Are you ready?
Things our kids say when asked about their screen habits:
On it far too often.
I lose track of time.
Falling down the Youtube rabbit hole.
Staying up later than intended.
Mindlessly watching when I'm bored.
Would be better if I wasn't always wanting more.
I get mad when my time is up, it's never enough.
I get irritated after getting off.
Conflict with family.
I struggle to find other things to do.
I feel left out when friends are playing and I can't.
I have too much fun playing games, I don't want to stop.
I have no other interests.
This list of quotes really touched me. Do they resonate with you?
When we help our child make informed choices about their screen life, and balance it with activities that we know support well-being, we will change their very experience of childhood, and that impacts their long term social, emotional and cognitive development.
Read that last paragraph again.
I know how hard this is, and I’m grateful that I’ll be learning some new strategies in the upcoming Screen Time & Mental Health Summit. Will you be joining me?
The summit is PACKED with tools and strategies from the world’s leading experts to help you discover how to set your child up for a healthy digital life that supports their well-being. Valuable expert insights, tools and strategies will be shared in the free summit!
Your path to digital family wellness:
If you can only watch one interview… don’t!
Make the time to watch a few. I’m sharing my personal shortlist below. If you don’t have time next week because life is too busy, there is an option to get lifetime access to the videos, but you’ve got to register first.
Here are 3 talks by speakers I’m excited about but have not learned from before:
How Not to Get Distracted or Hooked by Online Activities with Nir Eyal, author of Indistractable: How to Control your Attention and Choose Your Life.
How to Help Autistic Kids Be Healthy Gamers with Shannan Lea, Co-Founder & Collaborator, Autism from the Inside.
How to Play Video Games Without Getting Hooked with Alok Kanojia, MD, (Dr. K), Harvard-Trained Psychiatrist, President of Healthy Gamer.
I’m tuning into these talks because the speakers are my favorites! I always learn something incredible from them:
Motivational Interviewing and Change Talk for Parenting in the Digital Age with Ned Johnson, author of The Self Driven Child and What Do You Say
Using Neuroscience to Handle Screen-Related Behavior, Stress and Irritability with Dr. Mona Delahooke, child psychologist and author of Brain Body Parenting
The Neuroscience of Helping Neurodivergent Kids with Screen Struggles with Stuart Shanker, PhilD, Author of Self Reg: How to Help Your Child (and You) Break the Stress Cycle and Successfully Engage with Life.
Let’s do this, friends! Remember your self-regulation strategies, and breathe through the big feelings that come with change. Even positive change will alert our nervous systems, so keep breathing.