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How To Set Up Chill Zones Or Calming Corners: Creating safe and effective regulation spaces at home and in the classroom. A regulation space — also sometimes called a zen zone, chill zone, sensory space, or calming corner — is a safe and quiet area where a person can go to regulate (i.e. “calm down”) when they are feeling overwhelmed.
You’re doing everything right. You’ve read all the books on parenting and emotional co-regulation. You’ve provided a safe space where they can calm down when they are dysregulated, and have learned to stay calm no matter what. You're doing everything right and still things are not getting any better. Now what?
Further advice for supporting loved ones through meltdowns. You’ve read all the books on your loved one’s condition or neurology, you’ve read all about emotional regulation. I offer additional tips for when you’re doing everything right and still you feel as though nothing’s working.
Read my article, Giving Your Child A V.O.I.C.E.: Teaching skills for emotional regulation. The first step to raising considerate, compassionate children is being considerate, compassionate parents.
Children (and many adults) have often not yet learned what works best for them (us), it is helpful to have a variety of options available for them to try. It may be mort helpful to offer a variety of sensory and fidget items.
Stuffed toys are comforting, even for "big" kids. If the children or students are old enough to be self-conscious about snuggling a stuffy, you can try to include older-themed stuffed toys and weighted blankets based on current popular trends.
Some children regulate well through engaging their mind in something else entirely. Calm, quiet activities such as reading, doing a puzzle, colouring, or playing with play-dough can be highly beneficial.
If you're setting up a chill zone in your classroom, you may consider some form of privacy screen for students who become visually distracted or over-stimulated, or who may feel embarrassed by their big emotions. Keeping a basket of ear protectors can also help for those who become overwhelmed by loud environments. At home, you can set up a tent or make one out of a light blanket for kids who like to hide.
Appropriate for the child's developmental stage and interests: Colouring items or a notebook to write out one's thoughts can help children process, or they can draw and allow their mind to focus on something else while their body calms down.
Depending on the environment, soft music might be helpful. Some kids might prefer happy, energetic music to move their body and shake out their tension. A mindfulness or meditation recording might be helpful as well, there are many excellent guided meditation and mindfulness exercises available for free on various apps.
Children will be more likely to use their self-regulation strategies if they see the adults in their lives using theirs. Parents can work alongside children to make their own calming kits to demonstrate to their children that everyone experiences big feelings and needs tools to regulate themselves.
We're human. Adults struggle with emotional regulation at times too. We feel overwhelmed, frustrated, angry, anxious, hurt, upset, sad... you get the idea. In order to role-model helpful self-regulation strategies, and provide co-regulation for our kids, we need to first learn and use these skills for ourselves.
Co-regulation is essential for any relationship. We provide co-regulation for a distressed loved one when our tone, body language, facial expressions, and words all convey calm, comfort, and safety.
A series of articles all about emotions: emotional regulation, co-regulation, self-regulation, and interoception.