’cause we all need a little zen…
Every child needs a little zen in their day-to-day life as it can get quite hectic when things don’t go their way, their school and extracurricular activities are never ending, or they are overstimulated with technology and real life. I believe one very important place all children (toddlers to teens) should have in their home (and/or classroom) is a designated calming space. A calming space is a designated place where children can go to relax and calm their bodies and brains. It can help with developing self-regulation and sensory processing techniques for calming which a child can generalize to everyday life. It can be simple, cheap, and extremely beneficial to create!
All you need is a small space surrounded by at least 2 walls (such as a corner in a room). Make it a cozy space with a bean bag chair, a bunch of pillows, a small couch or chair, or blankets. You can even add a tent to define the space. Reduce sensory stimulation by blocking out sounds and sights (bright lights, distracting items on wall) that are overwhelming. Other items in this area could be calming tools such as a stuffed animal, stress/squeeze ball, books, journal/drawing materials, white noise or calming music, fidget tools (theraputty, monkey noodles) for the hands, and sensory tools such as a weighted blanket (10% of child’s weight) or body sock for calming deep pressure or noise reducing headphones. You can add emotions pictures and/or visuals of calming techniques (e.g. breathing strategies) to remind your children that BIG emotions are okay and remind them how they can calm down.
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This calming space offers a safe place your child can go anytime they feel like it. Educate your child about this space and how it should be used. Model emotional expression (“I feel ____ I can ____”) and self-regulation and calming techniques when you’re feeling overwhelmed as a parent (even if your calming space is locking yourself in the bathroom for some deep breathing).
It’s within the developmental process for children to experience a range of emotions. Through their cognitive development and social experiences, they develop self-awareness, emotional expression (“use your words”), empathy and sympathy, and coping and regulation skills which is imperative for emotional competence. As therapists, caregivers, teachers, & parents, our goal should be to help kids understand that it’s okay to feel different emotions at different times and ways to appropriately emotionally respond to situations.