A Time-In … agh … that sounds nice.
I sat in my bed closing my eyes for a minute after reading the words to imagine what that might look like for me and my kids.
A place where we connected, laughed and snuggled … a place where we could take a break and work through hard, unpleasant emotions …. a place my kids would want to go to work out their conflicts and practice skills of awareness, empathy, and problem-solving.
Yep. My mental mirage was checking all of the boxes that this mama needed checked.
But then a thought passed by … or more like got stuck … in my mind, my smile began to fade, and that space between my brows began to furrow (hello dreaded frown lines).
I am a mom to three children. Three individual small humans who have varying needs, wants, skills, desires, and personalities.
In a mere flash, the peaceful paradise I envisioned spiraled into scenes of chaos where toys and tantrums were being thrown. And I started to wonder, can one Time-In space be used for the whole family or will it just be another thing on the list of things that they argue over?
I decided to write down my questions and send an email to Generation Mindful’s support team.
- Can I use one Calming Corner, or do I need one for each child?
- If I do have one Calming Corner, what do I do when the kids are fighting? Send one at a time? Send the one who is most upset?
And the last question I sent was a please-tell-me-this-will-work-for-my-family kind of inquiry.
I watched my inbox as I would an incoming Amazon package - with pure eagerness. And within 24 hours, there it was, a response to my email. I wanted to share the response, because I have to believe that I am not alone here, in my fear … wonder … and hope.
Here was the email nugget that changed it all:
The Calming Corner: A Parent's Tool
You as the parent are the manual to your family, you know your children better than anyone else, and purchasing resources does not replace you as the lead component. It is very much your love and intuition that brings the magic and transformation.
Parenting is a journey - one that focuses on teaching and guiding, leading and following, learning and growing, together. The ToolKit is one pathway to get there - an opportunity to connect hearts and grow brains so that emotions and behaviors can be regulated respectfully.
Every family is different, including age, developmental capabilities, household structure, and more, and the ToolKit offers the freedom to interpret and express - not in a one-size-fits-all container but rather an intersection of where your family is currently and where you desire to be. That being said, here are some simple guidelines to help you navigate your journey in using the space with multiple children:
Step 1: Shift your mindset
Time-Ins are not Time-outs. It is less about “you hit your brother so now go to the Calming Corner” and more about validating emotions, noticing lacking skills, and teaching and guiding children through the process of regulation - aka a relational process called co-regulation.
Time-outs are flat. You did this, and now you must do this. Time-Ins, however, are multi-dimensional, focusing on who we are as parents, who our children are as individuals, and the situation and mood states of the present moment. It’s these points that help us decide which tools to use, when to use them, and how.
Step 2: Build motivation
Skill development does not happen in the eye-of-the-storm, but rather during regulated moments when your child’s brain is calm and receptive. Take a couple of weeks to playfully teach your children about the three pillars of emotional intelligence - name it, feel it, heal it - through silly games, reading books, role-playing, and with the tools included in the ToolKit. Encourage your children to play there individually and together. In doing so, two things happen. 1) Your children begin to understand their emotional sensations, put words to them, and choose calming strategies to override their reactive brain, and 2) Your child builds a natural curiosity and excitement to interact in the space. Namely, your child’s desire to go to the Calming Corner comes from within, not from outside forces (such as being told). Make it a get to, and not a have to and, in time, your children will likely seek the space on their own, or together.
Step 3: Start slow
After you introduce your Time-In space for two or more weeks via playful connection, then move into using it during teaching moments. At first, your children may not want to use their Calming Corner in the face of unpleasant emotions, and that is okay. Remember that this space is a place that your child can choose to go, not a place they have go in the face of big feelings and undesired behaviors.
If you find that your child does not want to go to their Calming Corner, stay listening and stay connecting during dysregulated instances and continue to model using the tools during regulated moments. You can pull in aspects of the tools by helping your child notice the sensations in their body, practicing breathing, or redirecting their behaviors wherever you are.
What To Do When Both Kids Want To Use The Calming Corner
It is easy to anchor into our children’s emotional state and dethrone ourselves off-center. Yet a quick self-check-in can help us respond and move from our powerful place to help our children transition.
When you are doubling down on big tantrums and elevated emotions, it is important to be flexible and present. Sometimes, it will be possible and necessary for your children to de-escalate in the same room. When this is the case, follow their lead. One may desire close proximity and allow you to help notice and name their emotions while the other may allow you to sit quietly at a safe distance. Knowing your child, their dysregulation cues, and their love language will help you choose your tools.
There will be other times when your children will find it difficult to be in the same space, and that is okay, too. Create capacity for their individual needs while holding to your center.
Parenting is fluid and as such, you may find yourself shifting with the situation. The tools you use with one child in one moment may be different from the next. Your best tools are to pause, notice your and your children’s brain states, and lean in with connection before redirection.
Setting Up The Calming Corner For Two Or More Children
It is very possible to have one Calming Corner for multiple children. Often, educators will use a single ToolKit for a classroom of twenty or more students. Some families and educators will administer the one-in/one-out rule. While this may be preferable for some, there are ways to use one calming space for multiples.
- Choose an area in the house that is accessible to all, and if possible or desired, a location that can allow for everyone to have their own “space bubble”.
- Create special sensory and calming baskets for each child with a focus on their interests. Allow each child to personalize their bin and choose their tools.
- Offer seating pods such as separate meditation pillows or blankets so that there are enough tools for each child to be in the space.
- Add additional calming strategies on post-its so your children can interchange them to individually calm or alert their nervous system.
One other idea for using one ToolKit with multiple children is to use some of the free aspects to accent special areas beyond the Calming Corner, essentially spreading out the resources of one Kit in multiple areas of the house, allowing children to choose whichever one they want at any time throughout the day.
Depending on developmental age and preference, your children may want and require you to join them several times to co-regulate with them, teaching them the process of self-regulation and conflict resolution. Model these skills and serve as an unbiased mediator at first, and, as your children learn the skills, become a guide by the side, or remove yourself altogether.
With time and consistency, things will evolve and you will find your groove. So too will your children. Parenting is an endurance race. It’s a long game. As we model and guide, we teach our children to use their brains and hearts.