Updated: Apr 19, 2020
Dear Parents and Guardians,
Our focus skill for the day is taking a break. Taking a break is a strategy to help calm our thoughts and feelings in order to be better able to attend to academics, activities, social situations, etc. One type of break that can be done anywhere is called the Turtle Shell. Turtle shell is done by putting your head down (in a turtle shell position). This is a great skill to use in response to verbal conflicts between siblings, peers, or when feeling stressed with work and needing to take a brief mental break. Breaks can also be taken away from the group (in a child’s room, designated calm corner, etc.). All calm and in control strategies can be used while taking a break (breathing, counting, positive thoughts, relaxing thoughts, tighten and relax muscles, think of rewards, etc.). Depending on your child and his/her emotional response, time and space without any interaction may be needed during the break. Other children may need encouragement to take a break and may need support processing feelings and identifying strategies to cope. Breaks are intended to increase participation in the expected activity by helping to return the body to a calmer state and then resuming the activity, rather than being used as an avoidance of work, chores, etc.
Suggestions for using this skill:
● Create a “break spot” at home for your child to go to when feeling escalated. This spot may have a coloring option, stuffed animal, or other sensory/quiet options to help them get calm.
● Ask your child if they want to create a nickname for this spot (chill out zone, courageous corner, etc.). If this spot is viewed as a positive place, they are more likely to use it.
● Try to help your child use the type of break that is needed
Calming break:a few minutes without stimulation or the use of a calming object such as a stuffed animal. As adults, we may read a book or look at a magazine for a few minutes.
Distraction break:a break with the purpose of shifting negative thoughts patterns by thinking about something more positive or neutral. This may be a break to color, do a puzzle for a few minutes, complete a maze, etc. Sometimes just a few minutes of focusing on something else can increase positive thoughts and positive feelings helping your child to be more available for the expected activity. As adults, we may do Solitaire or Sudoku.
Movement break: sitting still and focusing can be very difficult especially for long time periods. Encourage movement breaks with exercises, dancing to a song, or movements that stimulate both sides of the brain such as alternating right elbow to left knee and then left elbow to right knee. Stretching or yoga exercises can also be used.
In school, teachers look for signs of escalation, lack of focus, or boredom and often engage students in one of the above breaks depending on what is needed at the time. They often set timers when students take breaks. Some resources for breaks include:
● Visual timer: https://www.online-stopwatch.com/countdown-clock/full-screen/Timers can also be used during reading or academics so children can view the amount of time left for the activity. It can also be used for playing, free time, video game limits, etc. It can may be easier to avoid a power struggle by the timer indicating time is up rather than having the direction come from an adult.
● Gonoodle.com: You can create a free parent account to have access to both short active exercises and mindful/calming exercises. Calming activities can be found under the channels Flow, Think About It, and Empower Tools.
If your homeschooling experience is going like many parents around the country, there are plenty of opportunities to use breaks throughout the day (for both the students and adults ☺).
This is an adjustment for everyone. Hopefully as parents, we can use our own affirmations/self-talk such as I am patient, I am flexible, or I will get through thisas we take on the new role of teacher.
Please reach out if you need anything from any member of your child’s school team. I hope you all have a wonderful day.
Marissa Lloyd, LPCMH