Managing Uncomfortable Emotions or Unhelpful Thoughts with Grounding Techniques

What is “grounding”?

Grounding is a technique that can help you stay in the present moment when you are feeling worried, upset, angry or overwhelmed. Grounding uses different forms of distraction to reduce uncomfortable emotions and worried or negative thoughts. Grounding allows us to feel calmer and helps us remember we are safe (even if our feelings are uncomfortable).

When can my child use a grounding technique?

The wonderful thing about grounding techniques is that they can be practiced anytime your child experiences an uncomfortable emotion or is focused on negative or unhelpful thoughts. Grounding can be practiced anywhere- home, school, in private or in public. Grounding can be practiced independently or with the help of a supportive friend or adult. Grounding can be done without any special materials or tools.

How can my child practice grounding?

One of my favorite grounding techniques that I teach many of the children and adolescents I work with is called “54321 senses.” This technique allows your child to use their senses to be in the present moment, distract from negative thoughts or emotions and reorient them to the space around them, reminding them that they are safe. Practicing this technique can help reduce uncomfortable emotions and help your child feel better!

This technique can be practiced independently (thinking the answers to yourself) or with a supportive friend or adult (answering the questions aloud).  

  • Name 5 things you see right now
  • Name 4 things you hear right now
  • Name 3 things you can feel with your body right now
  • Name 2 things you taste (or like to taste and imagine them!)
  • Name 1 thing you smell  (or like to smell and imagine it!)
  • Take one mindful breath (breath in through your nose and out through your mouth)

Thank you, 

Annie Gray, LICSW
Behavioral Health Consultant 

Westwood-Mansfield Pediatric Associates 
“Proactive in your child’s care. Empowering families for over 65 years.”