First Responders:  Teach Your Kids to Calm Themselves


Dr. Rachelle Zemlok

Photo Courtesy Landon Jensen

We all have worries right? In general first responder families carry additional worries on a regular basis… and therefore so do our kids! They experience some big feelings with the ups and downs of our crazy lives.

I’d like to introduce Children’s RELAXATION and GUIDED MEDITATIONS to you. You’ve probably heard something about them before. Adults can use these as well! The children specific ones are stories that are easy to follow and incorporate calming effects throughout the story such as guided breathing, deep breaths, imagining the use of their 5 senses and engaging with soothing imagery. This all happens without them really knowing they are doing things that are great for their future coping because it’s folded into a story.

I have commonly heard from parents, “We tried those and it didn’t work!” Usually what I then find out is either that they did it once and their kids didn’t like it or in the middle of a meltdown they pulled out a meditation and tried getting their kid to listen to it. That’s not how these work! If they did, they’d be way more popular! Like every skill, we need practice and practice makes perfect. Kids don’t have an association to these stories yet. So in the beginning they aren’t sure how to use them. My suggestion is to give it a try daily for 1-2 weeks and build it into your family routine. This can be anytime, but I think a good time is before bedtime since it’s already a time you’d like them to relax and settle into a more calm state. I have also had some families that decide to do them as a whole family before bed which can be a great idea to build coping skills for everyone.

You can either:

1. Read them yourself, in this case you’ll want to find scripts to choose from online. I use “Green Child Magazine” which is a website with great downloadable scripts for children. Or you can order a book of them, I like “Imaginations 2.” If you’re reading them yourself just remember to use a calm tone. Pretend like you’re working at a spa with a very soothing calm voice and take your sweet time getting through the story with a lot of pauses.

2.You can also listen to them by searching these on YouTube, itunes, and many free Apps out there. If you do this you can lay down and do it with them which can be nice.

The hope is that over the 1-2 weeks you’re practicing it with them daily and their little bodies and minds start associating relaxation and being calm when they listen to them. Let them try out different ones and pick their favorites. NOW when a melt down happens or big worries show up you can refer to all the skills they have been hearing about and practicing each night (which means you need to be listening to know what language they are using). It would be best if you could refer to their favorite story for instance and say, “ I can see you’re having a really hard time right now, let’s pretend like we’re blowing BIG bubbles just like we do in our stories…” OR you can ask if they’d like to take a break in their room and listen to one of their stories. If they have a positive association to these (which is the goal) then these skills can really help you out in the moment.

If your kid is having trouble managing their emotions or behaviors in a way that might be beyond what’s expected for their developmental level then I recommend getting them more support. I am a child and family psychologist that specializes in supporting first responder families and children with ADHD in California and would be happy to provide you with the support you need. I provide video sessions if you’re not geographically close to me. Don’t hesitate to reach out to me through my contact page!

About Dr. Rachelle Zemlok

Dr. Rachelle Zemlok is a licensed clinical psychologist in California specializing in working with first responder families and supporting parents with children diagnosed with ADHD or pose behavioral challenges. Dr. Zemlok is also a Cordico Advisory Board member.  For more information on Dr. Zemlok or to connect with her please visit her website at