It is no secret here at Life as Leels that both myself and my soon to be 8 year old son have mental health issues. If you are new, let me fill you in quickly.
I have been diagnosed with anxiety and depression for the better part of the last 10 years as well as some post traumatic stress disorder after a trauma 7 years ago.
My son has severe anxiety disorder, ADHD and possibly some other underlying issues that we are working on (possible mild autism and sensory issues.) Having a child with mental health issues is much harder than an adult. (I have documented much of our journey on the blog.)
Fortunately, after a lot of searching, phone calls, and wasted appointments; we have started B in therapy with an awesome therapist that not only does he really like, but hubby and I really like as well.
One of the first “assignments” we had was to create a “calm down box” for B.
We want B to be able recognize his own emotions and be able to feel when he is getting stressed, angry, or worked up; and then be able to take himself out of the situation and calm down on his own before becoming aggressive. Hence, the calm down box.
Before I tell you everything we got to start with (yes, start with because he has requested some other things) I want to preface that our current calm down box was purchased at the dollar store. Every item. Including the “box” that we are using.
* So clearly, first step first; get yourself a box, bin, basket, tote, whatever. B picked out his own bin – with handles for ease of carrying it from the living room area to his room as necessary. The dollar store has great containers of all kinds.
* To start the box off right, the therapist gave him a top – a little, plastic, green, spinning top – that she acquired, that he enjoyed spinning around the table.
* We put some pens and a pad of paper in the box so he can write, draw, play tic tac toe, etc. to calm himself. If they are too young to write, they can scribble out their anger. If they are old enough, they can write out or draw their anger. Or, sit down with them and play a paper game with them (i.e. tic tac toe, the box game, etc.).
* I added the clear, glass “rocks” that you can find for using in a plant or fish tank. We got a whole bag for $1 and it provides calming texture for him. The top of the glass rocks are extremely smooth which provides a calming feel for him. Just rubbing them between his fingers calms him. They also make fun for making “pictures” with them and having them guess what it is – a flower, a letter, etc.
* We got a word search puzzle book. He enjoys doing word searches and we thought it would be a great way for him to self regulate and calm down. You can also do colored pencils, crayons, markers, construction paper, drawing paper, coloring books, sticker books, etc.
* He asked for a puzzle so we got a mini 48 piece puzzle that he has used quite frequently, putting together and taking it apart.
* We found a soft, squishy Nerf type football that allows him to squeeze (think stress ball.)
* The therapist had slime that really intrigued him at her office and so we got slime for his calm down box at home. It is a texture for him that he enjoys so he can regulate his feelings more appropriately. He has used this probably second most. He can sit and just let it slime between his fingers and hands and has an almost instant calming nature.
* Because of his texture “thing” (if there is a better way to describe it, please enlighten me!) I purchase that blue rolly, spikey thing. From the bath aisle. I remember growing up when I did one on one care for a boy who had autism, OCD, ADHD, and sensory issues; we used a body brush and joint compression – which made me pick up the spikey thing. And I am glad I did. It is the most used item we have purchased. He loves the feel and it calms him almost immediately.
Other things he has asked for in his calm down box is a slinky (the therapist had one) and a Hoberman ball. (You will see the Hoberman ball come up in another post shortly, but for the time being, it is not a part of his calm down box. Yet.)
I also plan to make a calm down bottle for him (watch for that too!)
All of his calm down items are kept in the blue bin near my desk so that his sisters cannot use the items, but that he can grab them as needed. The goal is to have him go to a quiet spot to use the items. Sometimes that means his room, sometimes that means sitting on the couch watching a show (which we are okay with because it calms his anxiety and has decreased his nail biting behavior.)
In addition, I purchased double products to make an “out of home” calm down bag.
His calm down bag has pens; a pad of paper; a Mad Lib book; a word search book; the other half of the glass rocks; another Nerf football; and another blue, rolly, spikey thing. (I will be adding to it as we add to the box, but this is our starter bag. I kept anything that I felt was ‘gross’ or unacceptable for a dinner table out of the bag – i.e. slime!)
We take his calm down bag when we are going somewhere that requires patience. Mostly for us, that means going out to dinner. The wait for his food and the wait for everyone else after he has eaten his food is a great time for him to pull out his calm down bag. He can occupy himself with something, or we can play tic tac toe or we can do a word search together.
I have noticed a decrease in outbursts with him at home so I feel that we are making progress, or at least his calm down box is working!
Is there anything you would add to the calm down box that I haven’t thought of? Feel free to let me know in the comments!