“ARGH!” Eddie, your 6 year old, yells in frustration for the third time in 30 minutes.
Maybe he didn't get enough sleep last night. Maybe his allergies are acting up and he's more on edge. Maybe it's the middle of school vacation week and he's irritated with his sister. Or maybe it's all three. Whatever the reason, he needs to calm down. What can you do to help your son? You can create a calm down spot in your own home.
Find a spot
Find a spot that is quiet and not too busy. It could be a corner in a room, or it could be an area in their own bedroom. Figure out what’s going to work best for you and your family. We use a corner in our downstairs dining room as a calm down spot. We don’t use our dining room frequently, but it’s still close by to everything on that floor.
Delineate the spot and make it cozy
Start with creating a way to delineate the space. Here are a few ideas:
- a child’s tent
- rod with a curtain
- Hang a hook from the ceiling and attach a canopy.
- lay out a blanket or mat.
Next, focus on making the space cozy. Add some pillows or extra blankets, and a few stuffed animals in there.
Add some calming tools
Create a calm down toolbox for your child to use in times of stress and frustration. Get a box or a basket, and put in items that will calm them. Some common items that help are stress balls, play dough, a book they like, or a toy that they enjoy playing with quietly.
Make coping skills cue cards so that your child can have a visual reminder of what calms and relaxes them. Include that in the box too.
Explain and practice
Your child will need an explanation of what a calm down spot is and how to use it. Show them where the spot is and explain to them that this is a place they can go when they need a break or need to calm down when they get upset or frustrated.
Let them add in their own specific items like a special blanket or a special stuffy. You want them to feel as cozy and comfortable as possible in this space.
When they are in a calm frame of mind, have them go into the spot and see how it looks and feels. It’s always best to practice using these strategies before a crisis arises.
Calm reminder to use it
The next time your child is looking like they are getting frustrated or angry, give them a gentle reminder to use the calm down spot. Remind them that it’s okay to take a break and come back when they feel ready.
Will it work perfectly every time? Absolutely not! But it will be another coping skill to add to your child’s growing list of things to try to help deal with stress and big feelings.
“Eddie, you seem frustrated. Why don’t you take a break and go to your calm down spot?”
He lets out an exasperated sigh, but walks to the calm down spot. A few minutes later, you take a quick peek and see him playing with his silly putty. Woohoo!