Monday, May 19, 2014

The Calm-Down Spot


We have reached a point where the kids are learning the need to calm down and have time away rather than a spot of punishment or time-out.  This one is also a little different because it's for us parents too. We recently made a deal with both of them, that if one of us is getting upset, irritated, losing patience, not speaking in the nicest tone or just plain frustrated with someone else then we need to take it as a clue to step away and go calm down.  It is also used when the kids are starting to misbehave because they want to be in control and do what they want and speak inappropriately to us or their sibling.  I let them know that they I will speak with them when they have taken time at the calm-down table and are talking in a nicer tone.  There have been times when they are just feeling like they do not want to be told what to do at all, have refused the suggestion to go there and I then resolve to let them know that they can choose to go there on their own or to have me bring them there, which keeps the ball in their court.  

It hasn't worked in a couple of cases, but I would say that this new system is working very well.  This table is covered in an ocean style colored cloth with peaceful pictures to browse through on top.  You will also see two pinwheels and a calming bottle.  
  • The pinwheels can be enjoyable for kids to watch but it also requires deep, focused breaths to make the wheel go round.  These same type of breaths are also what we need as humans to calm our bodies down.  For kids it can be fun and relaxing at the same time. 
  • The calming jar is a jar filled with a glitter paste and water.  When the kids shake it, the glitter slowly glides to the bottom.  It is enjoyable to watch and it requires one to stop and visually track the glitter as it floats to the bottom, distracting one from the frustrations that were occuring.
  • Cabasa is a musical instrument with beads.  Rolling the Cabasa on skin can be calming and can also invoke sensory stimulation.
  • Drums can be helpful if you don't mind the banging and if they are directed in the right way.  It has not proven to be helpful if we re-direct kids to hit drums instead of people.  Hitting anything generally continues the negative emotions, however drums can be used when using deep breathing.  When exhaling, drop your hands on a drum.  Ocean drums do not require hitting and can be effective in calming.  
  • Rain sticks of course, can remind us of falling water.   Some are louder than others but it also might be an option. 
  • Calming recorded music is another option.  Different styles of music have an effect on everyone differently.  Maybe having family members choose a few agreeable selections of meditative or instrumental music if this is something desired for this spot. 
  • Words are another option as they learn to read.  Calming and positive words are good to train our brains to think about to help the calming process.  For example, words like, "breathe," "encourage," "help," "I'm sorry," "share," or "forgive."
I do suggest considering safe objects.  Some such as sea shells or rocks could be used instead as a projectile before the calming occurs. 

This spot is meant to serve for calming with things that are enjoyable and calming for the kids, but not to the point that they want to stay there all day (for instance, Legos might not be the best choice).  The hope is that it serves as a place to lower stress hormones and help them recognize the signs to look for when we get experience negative emotions.