During October in-service, our CMP teachers took time to deep dive into one of our most utilized Conscious Discipline tools, the safe place. While we use it daily at school, it can also be created and used in your home.
What is the safe place?
The safe place is a small, clearly defined area where children can go to regulate and handle their emotions. It can also be used to take a break or have quiet alone time. It is important that the safe place has clear physical boundaries so that children can see exactly where to go when necessary. Many classrooms use a small rug or beanbag chair to define their space. The safe place should be set up with a variety of tools and visual cues for children to communicate and work through their big emotions. You can include fidgets, soft toys, something to write or draw, puppets and books.
How to use the safe place
It is important to teach your child how to use the safe place when they are in a calm and regulated state of mind. If they are a CMP student, they are most likely already familiar with the concept. If not, have your child help you set up your safe place at home. As you add tools, teach them how and when to use them. For example, if they are upset and want to hit, teach them to hit the pillows or find a fidget to pull on instead. You must teach them to use these tools when they are regulated so that they will successfully use them in times of crisis or dysregulation.
Teach your child that when they are having big feelings such as anger, sadness or disappointment, they can go to the safe place. Once they are there, they can use the tools you have set up to help them regulate. If you have taught them, they can also use feeling faces to communicate to you how they are feeling and how they wish to be helped. Sometimes children need our help regulating, but oftentimes they just need time to cool off and cry it out. Let your child know you are there and ready to help but give them space to feel their feelings and use the tools provided to regulate. It is important that adults and other children do not invade the safe place when it is being utilized. Once the feelings have passed your child may ask you for help, a talk or a hug.
The safe place is not a time out and should never be used as such. The goal is to make the safe place a calm and inviting space that the child chooses on their own or when prompted by a trusted adult. You can teach your child that when they are tantruming or want to hit, kick or throw they can go into this space and be left alone (while still being supervised) until they are ready for help.
If you would like to make your own safe place at home, try to include a variety of items with varying textures, sounds, scents and functions. Let your child help gather the materials and set up the space together as a family. Below are some ideas for items you can include in your safe place at home.
- Conscious discipline breathing icons and feeling faces (ask your child’s teacher)
- Fidget toys
- Sensory bottles
- Texture wall
- Stuffed animals and blankets
- Resistance bands, ankle weights, weighted blanket
- Scented markers and paper
- Quiet activities such as puzzles
- Mirror (for children to see the way their face looks when feeling different emotions)
- Rug, pillows, cushions