If you have a child or young person in your care who is anxious, or behaving in unpredictable ways, creating a calm home environment can help make them feel more secure.
A calm physical environment is not going to eliminate all challenging behaviours, but it can assist a child to better manage their emotions. It will also make you less stressed and better able to cope with extreme or challenging behaviour.
Tips for Creating a Calming Home Environment
Clear some space
It doesn’t take long for a home with even one child to get out of control with wall to wall toys, clothes all over the floor or sporting equipment thrown into a corner. Whether your home is large or small, you can create more space by being organised.
For example, you can put a basket by the front door for shoes, a box at the end of the bed for plush toys and shelves or drawers for books and school work. By having designated places to keep items out of sight, and locked away for safety if necessary, your home will be less chaotic.
Keep it tidy
Once you’re organised, teach each child in your care to put items in the right places, such as shoes in the shoe basket as soon as come through the door and books on the shelf when they finish reading. For younger children, you can play a ‘pack away’ game for their toys before bedtime which becomes part of their routine.
Older children can be reminded to put their dirty laundry in the laundry basket rather than dropping it on the floor. Be sure to set a good example by keeping your personal belongings tidy and putting your own shoes in the shoe basket.
Excessive noise can add to a traumatised child’s anxiety and overwhelm their senses. Don’t leave televisions on if no one is watching. Be mindful of what is playing on the radio and other electronic devices, as well as monitor how loud the volume is.
Eliminate noisy toys that have no volume control and replace them with quiet activities. Encourage stressed-out teenagers to take a break from noise and overstimulating screen time by listening to soothing music or an age-appropriate meditation.
Create a calm corner
Not the same as a time out space, the calm corner is a positive space where children can feel safe, chill out and just relax. Create a nurturing atmosphere using soft lighting, cushions and rugs.
Place some quiet activities like plush toys, books, or paper and pencils in the space (no electronics or television). If your child is sensitive to sound, keep some noise-blocking ear muffs for them to grab.
Bright lights, or glare from sunlight, can be over-stimulating, especially for children with sensory processing issues. Bright colours and visual clutter from too many different colours can overwhelm some children and make it hard for them to sleep. Try dimming the lights (without creating scary shallows).
At times, it may feel as though there is nothing you can do to defuse the situation. Creating a calm home environment is a practical and relatively easy way you can help a child or young person in your care feel calmer and more secure. When they feel safe, they are less likely to act out and engage in destructive behaviours.
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For more tips on how to manage challenging behaviour, download our e-book.