Divorce can feel like an earthquake, shaking the very foundations of a child’s life. Nothing feels sure anymore and she has nowhere to turn to anchor herself. Grounding techniques can give a child from a broken home a way to cope when things feel so detached. Simple to do anywhere, in moments they can help with anxiety, confusion and feeling adrift.
A kind of meditation that incorporates solid items in a child’s surroundings, memory recall, or reassurances, grounding techniques will help her turn from her emotional pain to her simple surroundings. It can be used any time life feels out of control, whether at school, in a new home, or even at the mall. In addition to helping recover from emotional overload, these techniques can help build a sense of control and security that kids from a broken home often don’t have.
Basic Grounding Techniques
There are four steps to any grounding technique:
- Open your eyes. Make sure the room is well-lit if indoors.
- Stand or sit solidly. Note your level of emotion on a scale from 1 to 10.
- Perform the grounding exercise, whether mental, physical, or self-soothing.
- Note your emotional level once again, from 1 to 10.
Children from a broken home can mentally ground using something in their room or wherever they are feeling emotional distress. A picture, doll, even just the door or classroom windows will work. They should pick something that won’t evoke more emotions. Next, they should describe, out loud if possible, how many panels or panes there are, what color the door or window is, and any other concrete details. If the object is a picture or a doll, the child should systematically describe the details she sees such as colors, features, decorations and background details. The technique can also work by recalling an everyday activity step-by-step, or counting very slowly and deliberately.
Much of the stress from a broken home is from the high level of emotions. A physical grounding technique can be particularly effective since it distracts the mind quickly. Have the child simply squeeze her hands and unsqueeze them, using rubber stress balls if she has them. Tell her to eat something tasty, and then observe each flavor without thinking of anything else. She can also bounce up and down rhythmically, or put her hand into cool or warm water. Carrying a grounding object, like a small stone or toy, in her pocket that she can hold and focus on will help also.
It’s hard to feel grown-up in a broken home; sometimes even teens just feel like a little kid again. That’s the time for self-soothing grounding techniques, where they are giving peace to themselves when they feel small and upset. Thinking of their favorite place, somewhere they feel safe and secure, they will calm down. They can remember a favorite color, food, season or type of animal, or recite a poem or sing a song that they love. Remind them to think of something good that they are looking forward to in the next week or two. In a broken home, there can be lots of frightening noise and actions. When things feel really rough, remind them that they can simply tell themselves that it’s only temporary, reassuring themselves with “it’s going to be ok” or “you are a good person” and “this will be over soon and you’ll feel ok again.”
How Grounding Helps
Grounding interrupts emotions that are starting to overwhelm your child. It’s like sending a train down a different track. Her mind will let go of the emotional overload in order to perform the grounding exercise, and the strong emotion will fade. Broken homes often have a lot of fear which children can carry out into the world, and these techniques will help make the world a less scary place by helping to manage emotions.
Give It Time
When a child first starts trying grounding, it might take a while to work. Especially if the broken home environment is still chaotic, she may have to practice for a while to focus on the technique. That’s ok; it might take ten or twenty minutes at first. There are many different techniques so that each child can pick her own favorite, so have her try several and see which ones work best. Depending on the situation, certain grounding techniques might work better for one type of emotion or another, too, such as anger and rage or sadness and grief.
Adults And Kids Can Ground Together
Kids from broken homes are sometimes alone and need to take care of their own difficult emotions using grounding. Parents can practice grounding techniques for their own use, and sometimes use them with kids for support. Encourage the child to use a technique, and demonstrate it to show that it is easy to do. The child may be skeptical since emotions can feel so powerful, but watching a parent calmly ground herself can reassure the child that grounding works.
Keep Using Grounding Into Adulthood
Childhood memories of a broken home can be powerful, even for adults. Whenever old memories and feelings come up, whether they come from the past bubbling up or some present-day memory that triggers feelings, just go ahead and ground. In an office or on the train, there are always ways to quietly do a mental, physical, or even self-soothing grounding technique. For adults who are part of a divorce, these techniques can be especially helpful as they experience strong feelings and still must meet their responsibilities.
Even Young Kids Can Do It
It can be harder to teach very young children how to handle their emotions when they are growing up in a broken home. They may not be able to identify them, but they can learn the grounding habits. When the child shows strong feelings and begins to cry and express them, an adult can help by providing something that catches the child’s attention and interest. Most children will follow their curiosity to notice the object and the details, and eventually their emotional state may change.
If an emotional state hasn’t yet arisen, it’s still useful to practice grounding if the likelihood of one is high. A reminder of the broken home or some stress-or in it might automatically produce strong emotions. As soon you notice the situation, encourage the child, in a peaceful way, to practice her grounding.
A broken home is a source of confusion, loss, stress and fear for many children. Having a powerful tool like grounding ready to use can help kids to cool down when emotions start to rise. Parents can use it too, helping to prevent painful feelings and conflicts as they try to rebuild their lives.