Ask a Provider: Calming Corner
With Mental Health Therapist: Lina Chavez-Penner, M.A., LMHCA
1. What is a calming corner?
A calming corner is a place your child can go to when they are feeling overwhelmed or are having difficulty regulating their emotions. This designated space has sensory toys such as fidgets, chews, soft blankets, or a cuddly stuffy. Noise-cancelling or /reducing headphones or something that smells nice can also help your child in this calming environment.
2. How can kids with prenatal substance exposure benefit from a calming corner?
When people are overwhelmed, angry, or out of control, the cortisol levels in the brain increase and make it difficult to think about anything other than safety. This is a protective feature and has often been called the “fight, flight, or freeze” response. This response is meant to prepare us to run from a bear, hide from a lion, or fight a snake. But for many children, particularly those with prenatal substance exposure, this emotional response may flare up throughout the day, for example, when they are told to put their iPad away. A calming corner with sensory friendly toys can help children regulate their feelings and remind them that they are safe.
3. How do I get my child to start using a calming corner? Is there an “age limit” for which this is appropriate?
Have your child help you create the calming corner by having them select a special toy or a blanket for the space.
Let them choose to go to the calming corner as long as they are engaging in calming activities. It may be helpful to set up a routine so they can spend a few minutes in the calming space at the same time every day to get used to it.
However, keep the age in mind when setting up the area: what you do for a three year old may be quite different from what you would set up for a thirteen year old. Trust what you know about your child’s likes, dislikes, and what they find calming.
4. What type of space should be used?
The best location for your calming corner is a place that your child can access easily, have developmentally appropriate supervision, and is naturally quiet.
Want to learn more about setting up your calming space? Read this article for more details!
About the author: Lina Chavez-Penner, M.A., LMHCA, is a child and family therapist at Hope RISING Clinic, a division of Wonderland Child & Family Services. Informed by her life experience and education in multicultural and social justice competencies, Lina prioritizes the relationship at the center of treatment. She developed a passion for providing trauma-informed mental health access to people of color, those who identify as gender diverse, the LGBTQ+ community, transracially adopted children, and children with neurodiversity. Lina’s ultimate goal is to help empower families to foster resilient attachment relationships that will prepare children for their future. When not working with amazing families at Hope RISING Clinic, Lina enjoys playing Dungeons & Dragons, camping with her partner and their dog, and sharing meals with her friends.