Pause and Cool Down!

Published Categorized as Anger, emotional literacy

This week’s video: Pause and Cool Down (cooling down strategies), goes very well with last week’s video: The Pause button (knowing which emotions might need a pause before you respond).

These videos make reference to a part of emotional literacy that some older children (and adults!) can really benefit from practising. It’s really simple to describe but not always so easy to actually do, especially for those whom ‘the red mist’ descends – such as children with ADHD/poor impulse control – for example. The learning I refer to is about being able to pause before you respond when a strong emotion has been triggered.

When we are in the grip of an intense emotion, we rarely make good choices. In the throes of anger, our rational thought is usually suspended – albeit not for long. That’s why our responses in the heat of the moment can so often just make the situation worse – with defensive words or physical aggression. These responses were, of course, appropriate in pre-history when our tribe was under attack and we needed to respond swiftly and aggressively to our attackers, but they are rarely helpful now. It seems unfair that we are still left with a biological system that was designed to keep us safe thousands of years ago, but that can cause difficulties now but this is the reality of several emotions. However, awareness of this alone, can go a long way.

Being able to pause before you respond also requires us to be able to see strong emotions arrive, as they arrive. This also sounds really simple but emotions are tricksters and they are designed to control you and override your thinking brain. To see emotions as they arrive requires a degree of detachment from them, so you can become the observer rather than the automatically entangled responder. If a child is aware that there are some emotions that benefit from pausing before responding (which The Pause Button will help them think about) this can start the process of noticing emotions in the moment and they can become better at observing them as they arrive. Looking out for the physical symptoms of emotions (as covered in the video Symptom Checker) can also help children look inwards rather than automatically responding outwardly.  

A further thing to add is that it’s helpful for children to learn to separate emotions from their behaviour. Anger is an acceptable emotion; aggression is rarely an acceptable response.  All emotions are totally acceptable and a normal pert of being human, but our responses when we feel them can sometimes not be, especially if they harm something or someone. It’s good to understand that we can’t always help what we feel but that we can learn to have choice when it comes to how we behave.

So The Pause Button and Pause and Cool Down are ways to help children manage those tricky emotions. I hope you find them helpful.

For a list of all published and soon-to-be-published videos and what they cover, please visit Activities to Explore Emotions.

Further note: I need to point out there is an exception when it comes to needing to take a pause and that’s when the emotion of fear works super-fast to keep us safe. Fear is perfectly designed to give us an adrenaline rush to make us jump out of the way of the oncoming car that we hadn’t previously noticed. Fear can still misfire though as our brain does not always discern between things that can actually harm us and things that we are scared of that don’t put us in physical danger like standing up in front of lots of people and speaking. You could argue you could be harmed by social embarrassment but the strong and quick reaction fear gives you, doesn’t really help in this situation.