Welcome back to the second part of creating the calmest home for everyone! I know that I said in the previous blog that the most important strategy to include in your daily life is a consistent visual schedule, but I must confess – there are some gems in this blog too. Anything to create that serene space for you, your child and family to find some peace. Again, I know how that feels as a parent – not always the calmness, but definitely the need for that calm space.
In the previous blog we covered:
- Calming background music
- Pleasant smells
- Visual schedules 😉
- Visual choice boards
- Low arousal tone.
Let’s jump to the rest on our list of “please tries…”
6. Transition cues. Another important strategy to remember and be quite consistent with is to remind your child when a change is inevitable. This change can be merely going from one activity to another, such as interrupting a game to have a snack break. Make sure your child has time to process the upcoming change as this will provide him or her the time to prepare for this. Although it might be second nature to us to manage sudden changes, we have to remember that a change of an activity brings about a change of sensory input, emotions that go along with this and of course, leaving a potential preferred activity or special interest. You can include your “first, then” schedule before a transition as well as a timer (if your child doesn’t become anxious with a “countdown” of sorts).
7. Visual clutter. Just like most people, your child will also function and act calmer if there are areas in your home that are clear of visual clutter. We usually suggest having specific “corners” for play activities and other areas that are specific for having a snack or lunch. There shouldn’t be too many visual distractions, such as random posters on the walls (of course having your child’s favorite characters in their room is a must though). A great resource is to look at various Montessori classroom strategies and designs. You can have a look at this link to get some great ideas: Some Montessori classroom designs.
8. Chill space. I remember when I was a child, I asked my mom if I can go “camping”. She will then create a camping experience by pulling up a tent and placing all the pillows we had in the house into it. I absolutely loved going “camping” as I felt safe and calm in my special space. We ask our parents (clients) to create a chill space for all our kids. It should have some of their sensory toys that they love and soft blankets or pillows. It’s a time and space for them to feel completely relaxed and not have any expectations placed on them and yes, they are allowed to engage in self-stimulatory behaviors when they are in their “chill space”. Try it, I think your child (and you) will love this idea.
9. Movement breaks. According to the extensive research we did, we realized that we all need movement breaks throughout the day to sustain our attention (and interest). We provide fun, movement activities to our children and usually join them, every 15-20minutes. This might seem like it’s a lot of movement, but it can be as simple as a quick massage you give your child or a “let’s roll in the blanket to the garden” when they have been sitting for a while. Let us know if you want a list of fun movement activities – we can be quite creative with our little ones!
10. Sincere social praise. The emphasis here really is on “sincere”. We have been trained in various forms of therapy through the years, but one thing is for sure – we have learnt that providing over-the-top “GOOD JOB” with a piece of cookie as a reward for certain behaviors can do more harm than good. Our children are excellent judges of characters and they know when they are being “reinforced” in an unnatural way. Although this might not seem to be damaging now, we definitely don’t want to teach our children that it’s normal to receive this type of reinforcement for any and all small movements they make. We strongly believe in sincere, natural praise that will show your child you are truly proud of him or her. The words “proud of you” are also extremely important from a young age, instead of a “good boy”. Some of our children love a loud cheer, but we usually provide a variety of ways to show our kids that we truly appreciate the hard work they are doing – this also includes at times not placing “demands” on them every single hour. They are, after all, children, who love to have fun and “chill”.
Speak of chilling – I believe it’s time for a well deserved movement break.
Until next time, enjoy the calm environment that you are completely responsible for – thank you for being the parent you are.