Crystal is a mom to a toddler, tweens, and a teenager - sons Ender (13), Tyler (12), Drake (9), and daughter Caia (3). Having been raised by parents who felt emotions were a sign of weakness, she was struggling to create an environment for her children where emotions were respected and communicated.
Crystal shared, “I wanted to teach my kids how to manage their emotions before bloody noses and black eyes became a reality.”
Using the Time-In ToolKit, Crystal learned the basic components of emotional regulation and started teaching her family another way. Very early on in the process, she realized that the shift that was happening in their home started with herself and her husband.
“My husband and I were taught to stuff our emotions down when we were kids. It took us thirty years to understand that while we might try to hide from our feelings, when we stuff them down, they just come back, and usually not in the healthiest ways. I learned that my feelings are not "right" or "wrong" but helpful and that it's important for me to express them. I knew I wanted to teach this to my kids, but I had no idea how.”
That's when this mom of four discovered Generation Mindful. Crystal had been searching online for tools to teach her children about their feelings - ideally, something that she could use with all four of her children, despite their ten-year age gap.
Crystal admits that when she found the Time-In ToolKit, she was hopeful, but unsure how her older children would take to it all. “When I saw that the ToolKit is typically recommended for children ages 3 to 9, I wasn’t sure it would work for us, but then I thought, what the heck, at worst it will help just our youngest, and at best, it will help us all.”
When the Time-In ToolKit arrived, Crystal invited all four of her children to work together to create their calming space, as suggested in the ToolKit's manual. The kids took turns adding the suggested calming items they thought would help them the most - small toy items like bubbles, squishy balls, slime, and an old iPod with calming music and noise-canceling headphones. All of these items went into the family "time-in basket" within their new calming space, cozying their new space up a bit with a soft blanket, a pillow, and some stuffed animals.
Following the suggestions that came inside their ToolKit, Crystal introduced the space and the concept of taking time-ins slowly that first week to give her children time to adjust. “In those first three days, our oldest child quite literally spent hours hanging out in our calming space, looking at the posters, reading the PeaceMakers mantra cards to our youngest daughter, and playing with all the different activities that came in our ToolKit. I was surprised to see all three of our older kids gravitating to our calming space with their three-year-old sister without us saying a word. They were leading the show, and that was a big motivator.”
Crystal created a special binder for each child and added these to the family's calming space. These binders varied depending on age, but most included:
- Trigger Worksheets
- The “My Work-it Out’ sheet
- Printed inspiring coloring pages from the ToolKit's manual
- A "5 steps to an awesome apology" printable
- A “What To Do When Things Don’t Go Your Way” printable list
- A journal/blank paper for drawing, doodling, writing
- And finally, a place for completed worksheets, coloring pages, etc to go so her kids could return to these things to reflect and learn from them at a later date.
Crystal shared, “Having binders for every child gave our kids a sense of responsibility and belonging; a set of tools to call their own.”
Rituals are important in the Larrabee household. “Every morning, each child picks a PeaceMakers card and hangs it on their space on our family whiteboard and we use the card as a talking point or theme for the day. Because our three older kids see this as playing a game with their little younger sister, our tweens and even our teenager pick up information in these little moments they spend connecting using the cards and the posters without even realizing it. And because they can all do this together, it really helps me out.”
The tools and activities the family adopted by using the Time-In ToolKit are not just for children. Crystal shared that she and her husband use them daily as well. “Just yesterday, when I was feeling upset with my husband, I used the seven-step worksheet in the heat of the moment. Using the guided worksheet helped me figure out what I was thinking and feeling before I spoke with my husband. I like to model the behaviors I want to see from my children, so this was helpful, plus, it helped me connect to my husband, who was initially unsure about all of this.”
Since incorporating the Time-In ToolKit into their home, Crystal shares that there has been a drastic improvement in their family’s communication. “For the first time since my boys hit puberty, I finally feel like my husband and I can have a two-sided conversation with our teen/tweens. This has been a savior to my household and we have only been using the tools for about two weeks. I wish I would have had this sooner, but I am glad we have it now.”
Crystal knows that home is where the heart is. “We are raising people, not kids, and in order for them to be productive members of society, we have to allow them the room they need to grow. And while I don’t claim to have parenting altogether figured out, I do feel like I am helping my children grow into the best versions of themselves. We are now speaking a similar language. We have a healthier way to communicate, and I could not be happier about it! I want my family to know that, even when we disagree, home is always a place we can feel safe and let it all out.”