I love having tools in my parenting toolbox. The bigger the belt, the more I feel prepared to handle all the things that come with raising children. And the big heavy-weight tool for my household has been a Calming Space.
I am not saying that (poof!) magically all of your problems are solved. There are still meltdowns (both theirs and mine) and power struggles, but it is so much less. The frequency of my kids’ arguing, my yelling, and the family battles has exponentially declined.
5 Reasons Your Family Needs A Calming Space
What’s that saying, happy wife, happy life … well … happy mom, smoother home. But jokes aside, here are five reasons why your family can benefit from a Calming Space.
1. It meets the need for safety. Safety is a fundamental need. If we want our children to cooperate with us (and decrease power struggles), regulate emotions (work through meltdowns), and learn new skills (like impulse control) then they must first feel safe. When daily rituals are created in a Calming Space, children come to know that they can count on that time with you and that they can be who they are (and feel what they feel) without shame or blame. This builds trust not only with you but within themselves.
2. It meets your child’s need for connection. Connection is the wheel that keeps the Calming Space spinning. Not only do you and your child create this space together but you visit it together, too, especially in the beginning. Unlike a Time-Out where children are sent to isolation with their feelings, a Calming Space is one where co-regulation happens. Your child has access to your nervous system to regulate and process unpleasant sensations and experiences. So snuggle up, read a book, color, explore feeling posters, or any other activity that brings your relationship closer, even if it is just five minutes a day.
3. It meets your child’s need for power. Children who feel they have some agency in their process become empowered, and when they feel empowered, they fight you less for that power. Really reiterate to your child that this is your family space and that everyone has a say here. Engaging in five to ten minutes of child-led play not only fills their connection tank as mentioned above, but it is also a potent way to honor their authenticity. Additionally, as children begin to understand their internal sensations and control their outward behaviors, they feel a sense of governance over their own bodies.
4. It helps you channel your unpleasant emotions. Ever feel like you just need a small pause so that you don’t flip your shit? The Calming Space is that space. Whenever you feel your overwhelm taking over, take a Time-In in your family’s space. Model to your children what it looks like to feel something, name it and choose a calming strategy. They are watching and when we show them that our emotions aren’t scary and contagious, they begin to believe that about theirs too. Of course, we won’t be perfect at this, but the way I figure it is, some of the time is better than none of the time.
5. It grows our child’s brain. At least in a sense. We can’t rush optimal development in our children but we can teach skills that promote it. So every time we connect with our children in this safe space, we help them build somatic awareness and build an emotional vocabulary. The more they learn to understand themselves and share it with another, the more they can connect and heal any hurts that have accumulated throughout the day. This takes time and consistency. Remember, we are dealing with fairly immature brains here. Our leadership paired with neurological development can lead to new circuits that take our kids from blowing up to working through emotions in productive ways. And not just emotions but impulse control, problem-solving, and relationship repair, to name a few.
Our children are never going to have fewer emotions. In fact, they will only get more complex as they get older. But when we stay steadfast in our connection and guidance, they become adults who don’t feel less but who feel their feelings and know what to do with them.