calming space for kids

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Inside: If your kids need more support in managing their feelings and improving their behavior when they feel overwhelmed by emotions, creating a time-in space for them can make a big difference!

“I don’t want him in this room anymore! He always breaks all my toys!” – This is what my son yelled while throwing a toy across the room with an angry look on his face.

It all started when his baby brother took one of his toy cars and accidentally broke one of its doors.

I quickly fixed it, but this didn’t seem to stop my son’s anger. His voice kept getting louder, and his behavior felt more and more out of control.

Then, out of a sudden, lots of tears started rolling down his cheeks.

I knew that his reaction was not about the toy car. It was about all the changes he went through since becoming a big brother and all the big feelings he needed to deal with.

I tried to hug him, but he pushed me away.

Then, as he sat on the floor, gathering all his favorite toy cars in a box, with his eyes full of tears, something unexpected happened.

The baby went to the other side of the room, crawled on top of his brother’s bean bag chair, and grabbed his red bear toy. Then he returned to us, put the bear in his brother’s lap, and cuddled next to him.

The little red bear is my son’s “feelings buddy”, and we often use it when he is upset or angry to help us talk about his emotions.

I never imagined that his baby brother noticed that. Seeing him handing the bear to his brother when he was crying really touched my heart.

And I’m pretty sure it had the same effect on my son because soon after, we were in his time-in space, talking calmly about what happened.

Ten minutes later, he was sitting on his bean bag chair, “reading” a story to his baby brother and showing him all the pictures in the book.

As I was watching them, I realized (once again) how important it is to help kids manage their emotions with calm and empathy.

How empowering it is to give them the tools they need to express their feelings and learn positive ways to deal with them.

How wonderful it feels to turn a challenging parenting moment into an opportunity to teach kids how to behave better when they are overwhelmed by emotions.

I wouldn’t have experienced all this if it weren’t for one simple, yet powerful parenting tool that we started using ever since my oldest son was a toddler: time-ins.

What are time-ins (and why are they so powerful)

Time-in is a positive alternative to time-outs and punishments that focuses on connection and helps improve a child’s behavior in a gentle way.

When using time-in, you invite the child to sit with you when they are overwhelmed by emotions (or they engage in negative behaviors) instead of sending the child to spend time alone (in a time-out).

During time-in, you have the chance to discuss with your child about their feelings and help them calm down before addressing the behavior and teaching them better ways to behave.

This helps you build a close and trustful relationship with your child, and it also teaches the child a valuable lesson on dealing with strong emotions.

Focusing on connection before correction makes the child more likely to listen to what you are saying and follow your guidance.

I know that using time-in is not always easy, especially if you are tired or you are already overwhelmed by your child’s behavior. It takes patience and time to connect with your child and work things out together.

But in time, you’ll see how effective this approach is!

Kids are less likely to misbehave if they feel connected to you. And even when they misbehave, time-in is helping them gain the self-regulation skills that will make parenting easier for you in the long run.

How to create a time-in space to help kids manage their emotions better

We started using time-ins ever since my oldest son was a toddler, and we had different time-in spaces over time.

  • When we first started, we just used the couch in our living room as our time-in space. We had a box with books about feelings right next to the couch, and I used them during our time-in to teach my son about emotions in a playful way.
  • We created our first calming corner in 2018, when I discovered the Time-in Toolkit created by Generation Mindful.

My son enjoyed using the posters and the mindfulness cards, and this made it easier for him to talk about his feelings and calm down after getting angry.

  • After several months of using the toolkit, we moved to a new house, and the posters got lost during the move, so we switched from having a time-in space to using a “homemade” calm down kit.

The kit was very helpful in teaching my son how to use calming strategies to manage his emotions easier.

  • Then, the end of 2019 and the first months of 2020 brought a lot of changes in our family life. We welcomed a new baby in our family, we moved again, and then the pandemic came, with all the new challenges we all needed to face.

My son had to deal with many big feelings in those months, and I knew he needed more support in managing them.

Luckily, one day I received an email with an invitation to try the new Time-In Toolkit created by Generation Mindful. And I love the idea of being able to create a new time-in space for my son!

The concept was the same as for the toolkit we previously had, but this time the set was “ready to hang” so I was able to quickly set up a new time-in space in our home.

This time my son was the one who designed the space and decided how it would look like. He named it his “cozy space” and wanted it to be both a calming space and a reading space, so this is exactly what we did!

Here is what our time-in space includes:

  • 3 of the posters included in the Ready-To-Hang Time-In Toolkit (“My feelings” poster, “How do I feel?” poster with calming strategies, and the PeaceMakers poster)
  • the “Meet The PeaceMakers” activity mat with reusable clings
  • a cozy bean bag chair (that is great for both time-in and reading time)
  • a small basket including some of the tools we used to have in our calm down kit (playdough, small toys, a squeezing ball, a motion liquid bubble timer, etc), plus the PeaceMakers mindfulness cards and the set of “My Feelings” cards.

(We keep the basket on a shelf in my son’s room and only take it out when he needs it.)

  • my son’s “feelings buddy” (the red bear that is part of the SnuggleBuddies collection)

My son’s “cozy space” also includes his “reading buddy” (the cute cat he called ” Sparkly”) and a book display where he adds his favorite books, because he also uses this space for reading time.

How we use the time-in space:

Having a designated place for our time-ins helped us a lot!

We use this space not only when my son feels overwhelmed by emotions (e.g, when he gets very angry or upset), but also when I see him struggling with something and I want to start a conversation about it (e.g, when he gets frustrated during school work).

We usually start by checking the poster about feelings and inviting my son to find the emotion that better describes how he feels. Depending on how he feels, we either use the poster with calming strategies or the mindfulness cards.

If he feels upset or angry, we also use the basket with calming tools, or we read one of the books about feelings.

After he feels more relaxed, we get the chance to calmly talk about better ways to deal with emotions and come up with strategies he can use the next time he faces a similar situation.

What I love about time-ins is that they make disciplining kids feel easier!

We always end our time-ins feeling more connected, and this matters a lot for our relationship!

Time-ins helped my son develop his self-regulation skills and become more confident in his ability to manage strong emotions, and this had a big positive impact on his behavior.

Our new time-in space became one of our favorite places to spend time together.

It gives us the opportunity to have many meaningful conversations, build a closer relationship, and overcome challenging moments easier.

Resources for creating a time-in space for your kids

If you feel that your kids need more support in managing their feelings and improving their behavior when they feel overwhelmed by emotions, I encourage you to use time-in to make disciplining moments easier to handle!

It’s such a simple, yet powerful tool, and it can make a big difference in your child’s life!

If you like the idea of creating a time-in space (or a calming space) for your kids, here is a list of resources to use:

  • the Ready-To-Hang Time-In Toolkit (that includes many awesome tools to use with your kids during time-in: posters, mindfulness cards, feelings cards, calming strategies poster)
  • the SnuggleBuddies (a plush toy that encourages kids to name and regulate their feelings – we have the red bear and my son loves it)
  • a box or basket with calming tools to help kids put the calming strategies into practice (playdough, a puzzle, a coloring book, a squeezing ball, etc).

No matter what tools you choose to include in your time-in space, what matters the most is to have a space that will allow you and your kids to connect and overcome challenging moments together.

Using time-in instead of time-outs or punishments will not only help your kids develop their emotional intelligence, but it will also make parenting easier and more enjoyable for you!

For more inspiration for creating a time-in space for your kids, check out these great guides created by Generation Mindful:

If your kids need more support in managing their feelings and improving their behavior when they feel overwhelmed by emotions, creating a time-in space for them can make a big difference!

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