We are all feeling the effects of increased stress and children, unfortunately, have not beenvimmune. Allison Koehn, child and classroom advocate at Encompass, says she’s seeing more children struggling.
“We have definitely seen an increase in challenging behavior,” she says.
For children suffering with sensory overload, or react by yelling or another unwanted behavior, Allison created break boxes to help them identify how they feel, take a pause, get their emotions under control and rejoin their peers.
“The top of the break box has an emotions chart on it so the child can identify how they are feeling. We talk to them about those feelings and the child then opens the box, which contains fidget toys or other items to help them calm down,” she says. “The boxes help with social emotional regulation.”
Children as young as 2 use the break boxes — they hold age-appropriate items — and can spend anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes with them.
“We keep an eye on the child and if it looks like they’ve calmed down, we go talk to them and bring them back to the group,” Allison says. “Sometimes, the child will let us know they’re ready to come back. The break boxes provide a way for children to reset themselves.”
The break boxes are one way Encompass is meeting its For the Children Campaign goal to provide the Best in Classroom Experiences. Encompass also invested more than $200,000 from the Department of Children and Families Funds to renovate center spaces and replace well-loved classroom equipment.
Allison says the break boxes fit well with Encompass’ use of Conscious Discipline, an evidence-based, trauma informed approach. It is recognized by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration and received high ratings in analysis of the nation’s top 25 social emotional learning programs.
Conscious Discipline provides an array of behavior strategies and classroom structures that teachers can use to turn everyday situations into learning opportunities.
“Some children realize they’ve done an unwanted action, such as screaming, and then come to ask for their boxes,” Allison says. “We are providing them with the opportunity to self-regulate themselves.”