To truly address maladaptive behavior, ineffective social skills, and emotional issues in children we must first help the child feel safe. Feeling truly internally safe and peaceful is so important, which is why I’m always writing about it. 😉
I was recently reminded of the significance of feeling safe when my husband and I adopted an adult rescue dog. This is a dog who had been a stray, been in the pound, saved by a rescue, treated for heart worm, then adopted by us. Joey became attached to us quickly, he is loving, playful, and always has always had an eye on where my husband and I are in the house. We knew leaving him alone for the first time would be hard on us and the dog. Sure enough, Joey appeared pretty upset when we left him alone for the first time and an hour later he had gotten into our dirty laundry and made a small pile of it in his bed. Each time we left him he did this. I decided that Joey didn’t feel safe. He was searching for reminders of us when we left. I tried to think what would help a dog feel safe. So I went out and bought this silly looking but soft and endearing ostrich stuffed animal and gave it to Joey. He loved it and started carrying it with him everywhere. He had had plenty of toys but it seems there was something comforting in the stuffed animal. Let’s just say he hasn’t gotten into our laundry since. We find him cuddled up with his stuffed animal when we get home. Something consistent, something that belongs to him.
I know, I know, Joey is a dog and this blog is about kids. But my point is, there is something truly significant in feeling safe, in feeling like nothing bad is going to happen to you. We cannot always help the children we work with truly be safe in their external environment but there are simple things we can do to give them some internal security and peace.
Tips to making your office, classroom, or home feel safe for children:
1) Create consistent rules, expectations, and rituals (taking turns choosing the activities, reviewing positive behaviors with the kindness tree at the end of each session, etc.).
2) Follow through: ask the child what they want to do first next time and write it down. Next session get out the paper and read it together. This shows you value their opinion and you don’t forget about their wants and needs.
3) Meet developmental needs through play and comfort. Have picture books out and available, offer the child a stuffed animal to hold during the session, etc. DESPITE THE CHILD’S ACTUAL AGE. This shows the space is safe for the child to have his or her developmental nurturing and play needs met without being judged or feeling embarrassed.
4) Create a mini safe space. Literally a space only the child can fit in that the child can utilize WHENEVER he or she wants or needs to. This could be a mini pop up tent or any variation of a miniature secluded space. Name it too with a sign the children can read that identifies its purpose “safe space,” “peace corner,” etc. and fill with stuffed animals or pillows.
5) Use a calming scent such as lavender or peppermint. Even having an oil stone and allowing the child to choose the scent can be powerful. I personally use a bag of dried lavender buds and the children know if they want to make the scent stronger in the room they can squeeze the bag to release more scent from the flowers. These last a long time too.
6) Tap into your own inner peace! Meditate for a minute or two before meeting with a child, practice mindful breathing during session, create loving reminders and encouragement for yourself to access when you need it. 🙂
Hoping for some more awareness of inner peace for you and the children in your life today!