If you have space, a calm corner is a great addition to your counseling office. It provides a safe place where students can practice calming strategies and improve self-regulation. You also get to provide more support and instruction than might be possible in a classroom.
Make It Cozy
The calm corner should be comfortable and soothing. Pillows, bean bag chairs, soft blankets, and weighted lap pillows are perfect. Weighted pillows and blankets can get expensive, but there are a lot of DIY guides available.
If possible, I like to include a divider of some sort to separate the calm corner from the rest of my room. Not enough space? I also have an eye mask in the calm box. Students can use that to filter out the environment for short periods of time.
Step by Step Process
A calm corner is more than just cozy items and fidgets. When students are in this space, they need to work through calming down. This is best done with a simple process that they know and repeat each time.
I have students check in on how they are feeling, choose calming strategies, try those calming strategies, check in again to see how they are feeling, and repeat until they feel they are back to calm.
A simple process like this will make the calm corner purposeful and also teach students self regulation skills.
Calm Corner Visuals
Visuals are an essential part of a calm down area. Many students when they are feeling stronger emotions won't have the language to discuss a problem. This allows them to communicate and reflect.
It is helpful to start off with fewer, concrete visuals and slowly build them up. For example, as a student learns new calming strategies, they can be added. Or as their emotion vocabulary expands, they can have a larger set of emotions to choose from.
Counselor Keri has this great calm corner that is sports themed. She has visuals to support each step of the calm down process. Her word wall could be added to throughout the year as students increased their vocabulary.
Gretchen from Speckled Moose Counseling has this awesome set of calming strategy posters on display in her room. The superhero theme is sure to be appealing to lots of students. Calm is a superpower!
She also has them printed small and on a keychain so they are can be used anywhere. This can be a really powerful way to individualize the calming process for students and help them generalize calming strategies to other settings.
Each break spot should have a box with materials that connect to the calming strategy visuals. If you have a calming strategy for deep breathing, include a pinwheel or bubbles. If you have drawing, make sure you have paper and pencils/crayons. Fidget objects can also be perfect items to help a student calm and refocus.
After a student has used a calm corner, I like to extend the process with some self reflection. I have a few ways that I do this. I use a simple What If Map which has the student walk through two different decision paths. What if they made a different choice when a triggering event happened?
I also might use something like a Brag Sheet to have them reflect about using the calm corner effectively. These wouldn't be a consistent part of the routine, but used sporadically it can be a great way to have students reflect and also open up a discussion.
For students I see for individual counseling, I will incorporate CBT problem solving maps that helps them connecting negative thoughts and feelings with effective coping strategies.
A perfect way to incorporate the calm corner naturally is to practice calming strategies as a warm-up, a cool down, a brain break, or with transitions. I like to have yoga cards on hand and go through a couple simple sequences. Each additional exposure to a calming strategy will help students use them independently to regulate their emotions.
I also create a portable version of the calm corner so that students can have the calming process easily accessible. This is great for students who are already familiar with the process and require extra support outside of the typical environment. Perfect for field trips and specials classes.
Social narratives are an additional support and reinforcement that can be used to help students become fluent with using the calm corner. In this social narrative, I put each step of the calming process on a page of a mini-booklet and write it in the first person.
What do you include in your calm corner? Have questions? Comment below.