Emotional Dysregulation — and the Puffer Fish Who Can Help

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Emotional regulation. 

Sigh.

The absolute bane of my existence during this quarantine. Everyone is dysregulated — myself included. Mostly, though, my preschooler is struggling more than usual. 

I can’t blame her, because her whole life was uprooted and changed in less than a day. Her routine, her teachers and therapists, her friends, and her extended family suddenly became off-limits with no warning; she had no closure. It was traumatizing for her, as I’m sure it was for many kids of all ages. 

So, we got stuck. We struggled, and I had to brainstorm and work hard to help us climb out of the hole we were suddenly thrown into. What I couldn’t control was the situation and her feelings about it, but I could use the opportunity to teach her little ways to help manage her emotions when times are hard. 

And that brings me to belly breathing. Upon hearing our struggles, her OT from Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital suggested we make a habit of doing belly breathing exercises so we can easily “call on them” when a tough moment arises. Admittedly, I thought she was a little nutty at first. After all, my daughter’s only in preschool. But at that point, I was ready to try just about anything, and realistically, I had nothing left to lose. So we tried to implement this new strategy.

Much to my shock and amazement, it actually worked.

The “Puffer Fish” video she sent to us turned out to be magical. In one minute, the puffer fish works to teach kids big belly breathing without using words. It’s simple, visually appealing, and effective. Most importantly, it’s saved my bacon more times than I can count these past few weeks. After all, one less meltdown is one less meltdown, and that feels huge for us right now.