The art of mindfulness in de-escalation and calming is often neglected, and I am also speaking from my own experience here when I say that. More recently, though, I have made attempts to integrate mindfulness when providing crisis intervention for children of various ages.
It may sound silly, but I have found that using “I spy” to help children regulate is extremely helpful and I have used this with children up to third grade.
1. Get on or below eye level to reduce defensiveness. This actually significantly reduces the amount of stress chemicals being released in the brain because you come across as less threatening.
2. Validate the child’s feelings verbally or with emotion visuals. This could be validating what the child is reporting to be feeling or what you observe.
3. Introduce the game of I Spy or simply start playing and see if the child engages. This may seem awkward to simply say something like, “Wow I noticed something bright green out that window. I wonder if you can find it. It’s pretty tricky though..” but it works most of time! This is because a kiddo in crisis more than likely doesn’t expect someone to come and play I Spy with him. This lowers defenses and the surprise/novelty of this response engages the child’s brain on a whole new level. Brain research shows us that novel or expected experiences and interactions cause increased interest, engagement, and overall learning.
4. Once the child is engaged in playing I Spy, continue taking turns back and forth. Feel free to engage other senses such as touch or smell. For example saying, “I notice something cold, I wonder if you can find it” (could be window sill, wall, etc).
Not only does this work because of the sheer unexpected nature of this approach to crisis intervention and the resulting engagement and interest, it also helps ground the child in the present moment. Hence, the mindfulness part. 🙂
Give it a try and let me know how it goes! We could all use a little more presence.