Bringing Calm into Life's Little Moments
Today's blog is written by Kelsey Brown, author of Come On, Calm!
No doubt your child’s day is filled with dozens of little tough moments: those abrupt transitions, changes in their routines and times when their energy is just too much (or too little) for the task at hand. As a caregiver, parent, teacher or therapist, each of these moments is an opportunity for you to give your young person the tools they need to succeed through co-regulation.
Co-regulation is the support children need to “understand, express and modulate their thoughts, feelings and behaviors” (Murray et al, 2015). As young people experience big emotions over time, they watch and learn how to respond from the adults in their life.
When I was first navigating my career as a teaching artist and speech-language pathologist, I noticed that my experienced mentors and teachers were excellent at reading their students’ cues and redirecting their energy to prevent problems from escalating to the point where learning was disrupted. At the time, there were very few resources available and accessible to the public for learning this important skill.
My goal for publishing Come On, Calm! was to create a resource that could draw in little readers while teaching their grown-ups a shared vocabulary to use beyond the pages of the book. Whether you have a copy of Come On, Calm! or not, I hope our strategies can help bring more calm into your everyday life.
Transitions are a hectic time for us all. Whether it’s heading out of the house in the morning or getting ready to walk back from the playground, transitions can be perfect moments to model regulation strategies for your little ones. Once everyone has their belongings gathered and are buckled in, try taking a pause to “make lemonade” out of your morning. Instead of ripping out of your parking spot in a hurry, take a minute to pretend to find a lemon in your pocket ("Hey! How did that get in there?"), squeeze it into an invisible cup and take a refreshing sip. Aaaah. In less than two minutes, you’ve grounded your family in a stressful time and probably gotten a giggle or two from your back seat.
New and seasoned teachers use a variety of attention grabbers to quiet and gather a classroom’s attention. Instead of the old standards, like, “If you hear my voice, clap once,” or call-and-response clapping patterns, I like to incorporate exercises for regulating the group’s energy levels in preparation for the activity ahead. For a dysregulated class that needs help decreasing their arousal (finding their calm), model a slow movement or breathing task (Griffin Occupational Therapy, 2020). Instead of clapping a pattern for the umpteenth time that day, try “If you hear my voice, stretch up to the sky…If you hear my voice, reach over and grab a star…If you hear my voice, float down to the ground and touch your astronaut boots…If you hear my voice, sit down and find your red folder.” Not only do you now have your class’ attention, but you have given them the calm they will need to successfully focus on your next instructions.
Sometimes your young person will need time and space to process big feelings. Having a dedicated area in your child’s room or classroom where they can practice self-regulating is a great way to give them more independence in this journey. If you have the space, it can be helpful to have a physical boundary like a small tent, the backside of a bookshelf, or a rug to delineate the area in a concrete way. Have your little one help set up their “calm corner” or “safe space” with things that make them feel good. Ideas may include calming and familiar books, quiet activities like coloring supplies or bubbles, music, sensory toys and fidgets, calming lights like Christmas tree lights or a lava lamp, and comfort items like a blanket or stuffed animal. Looking for more books to share the calm with your little reader? Check out:
- Alphabreaths: The ABCs of Mindful Breathing by Christopher Willard and Daniel Rechtschaffen
- Come On, Calm! by Kelsey Brown
- Hurry Up!: A Book About Slowing Down by Kate Dopirak
- I’m a Feel-O-Saur by Lezlie Evans
- I am a Peaceful Goldfish by Shoshana Chaim
- Zoo Zen: A Yoga Story for Kids by Kristen Fischer
Some of my proudest moments as an author are when I hear of a teacher or caregiver using vocabulary from Come On, Calm! in their everyday routines. Whether it’s asking everyone to “pat your armor” before lining up for the bathroom or “blowing some bubbles” at the dentist office, I challenge you to find ways to intentionally incorporate co-regulation into your little ones’ lives everyday.
- Come On, Calm! by Kelsey Brown illustrated by Joseph Wrightson
- Edutopia: Sensory Strategies That Help Students Refocus on Learning by Lauren Brukner
- Griffin Occupational Therapy: “Sensory regulation strategies – what are they and how can they help your child?”
- Zero to Three: “It Takes Two: The Role of Co-Regulation in Building Self-Regulation Skills”
About the Author
Kelsey Brown is a neurodivergent speech-language pathologist by day and teaching artist/children's book author (Come On, Calm!, 2019) by night, weekend and summer. She has undergraduate degrees in Communication Sciences and Disorders and Theatre from The University of Georgia and a Master’s of Science in Communication Disorders from Emerson College. Kelsey’s experience includes working with and learning from the folks at St. Coletta of Greater Washington, Boston Children's Hospital, the Access Champions podcast, Imagination Stage, Soaring Starts Early Learning & Arts, and Camp Twin Lakes. You can connect with her @comeoncalmbook on social media or at comeoncalmbook.com.