Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Safe Place: A Self-Regulation Station

Think of the last time you were really upset.  I mean so upset that you just didn't want to talk to or even look at anyone.  Now, think of how you would feel if someone that you love very much either told you to "calm down", "stop it", or dismissed your feelings all together.  Maybe you don't need someone else to give you those messages because you're pretty good at it yourself.  When you are upset what messages do you give yourself?  Do you tell yourself your over reacting, being silly, or that no one really cares how you feel anyway?  Do you allow yourself to actually feel the anger, sadness, or fear?  It is important for you as a parent, teacher, or caregiver to be aware of how you handle your own emotional upset. 

Look at that cute little baby!  Bet you can't guess who that is!  That's right!  None other than yours truly as a red-headed, spunky, determined, "strong willed" two year old!  Boy oh boy there sure are some good stories about this tantrum throwing two year old!  Over the past several years I have come to realize that when the world didn't go my way I was still handling it like that two year old.  Here I was in my thirties throwing adult-sized tantrums.  Does that sound familiar? 
As I integrate the Seven Powers of Conscious Adults into my life, I am noticing that I perceive my upset differently and have new tools to help me handle it.  These tools are the ones I desire to hand down to my two precious children as well as the children in my care at school.  One thing that always sticks out to me in Conscious Discipline is the statement, "You can't teach something you don't posses."  The skill of Composure is so essential to how we function in life.  For our very young children it is the essential ingredient to self-regulation and impulse control.  A good friend describes it like a "pause button".  In Conscious Discipline we like to use the skills of Active Calming and Pivoting to help us create that "pause" so that we are more likely to respond  to life events from the higher centers of our brains than react out of the lower centers.

One of the structures we use in Conscious Discipline is the Safe Place.  The purpose of the Safe Place is to give a child (or adult) a space where they can calm down and regulate their feelings safely.  This structure helps us teach children the necessary tools so that they can have the "pause" button that I'm referring to.  They have the opportunity to calm down, name their feelings and then work toward a solution either on their own or with the help of an attuned adult. 

Space for Calming Down
The Safe Place looks very different for Infants and Toddlers as well as children with special needs.  With the youngest children the Safe Place is created on the chest or in the lap of a composed adult.  The adult must possess the skills to calm themselves down so that their state can regulate the state of the baby.  As the adult breaths and begins to calm it will allow them access to higher centers of their brain so they can give the best of who they are to helping the child regulate.  We break the process down into much simpler developmentally appropriate steps according to the age or needs of the child.

 Feeling Buddies Curriculum

The Feeling Buddies Curriculum by Dr. Becky Bailey helps teach children and adults the skills necessary for self-regulation.  Once you have introduced necessary skills for children to begin using the Feeling Buddies and understand the Five Steps to Self-Regulation you will really begin to see a difference in not only how the children handle their upset, but the adults as well!

Check out our Ribbon Cutting Ceremony.  This little boy is one that has had quite a journey toward learning self-regulation.  He was very resistant to any type of calming technique that we used with him, but with lots of patience, teamwork, and creativity, we have moved forward to a place of celebration because he now has skills he can use to help him manage his emotions.  We gave him the honor of cutting the ribbon and giving the children a tour of the Safe Place not only because he has become such a pro, but also because it was a great opportunity to increase his skills.  Teaching and learning go hand in hand. 

Stay tuned for more details about our Safe Place like what tools we use, breathing techniques, class books, and more great video clips!