A Bottle Full of Calm

I love Pinterest.  All those pictures, all those projects, all those ideas.  And today I actually made use of Pinterest in therapy.  Yes, yes, I did. A few weeks back I pinned something called "The Calm-Down Jar."  It's just a mason jar with a lid, filled with water and glitter.  When your child is upset and needs to calm down, she can shake the jar and sit and watch it while everything settles.

This morning I was going to be seeing some new clients, two little boys who are in foster care.  Their foster mom has seen a lot of acting-out from the boys, and is worried that they will become even more sad, mad, and scared as the holidays come, and they are still in foster care.

So when they came in, we talked about feelings for a little bit.  And if you have been around small boys much, you know that when I say "a little bit" it was no more than three minutes.  Still, they were able to identify my various facial contortions as the emotions I was intending to demonstrate, and they could talk about times they felt mad or sad and what they usually do at those times.  (Hitting each other seems to be a regular outlet for their negative feelings at this point.)

Then we worked together so they could each create a modified calm-down jar.  Here's what we used:

  • A plastic seafood-cocktail sauce bottle, small enough for little hands to hold, and plastic so it will bounce if it falls.  (I thought if we used a glass jar and it broke, calm would not be the result of the exercise.)  I chose this particular bottle because it has a wider mouth, so we could add small toys to the bottle just for fun.
  • Water, filling the bottle half to three-quarters full
  • Plastic dolphins and whales
  • Glitter

After the boys had put whatever they wanted into the bottle, I put a little super glue around the inside of the lid and screwed it on, so it couldn't come apart accidentally or on purpose later on.  Then I told them that when they're feeling upset, they can shake the bottle as hard as they want, for as long as they need to.  Then if they set the bottle down, they can watch the glitter and the animals swirl around until everything is still.  They were happy to try and it and thought it was cool.

A few minutes later, they had moved on to investigating the room.  One of the boys ended up with a toy whose batteries were dead.  His eyes filled with tears.  Then he turned to the art table, picked up his calm-down bottle, and started shaking it.

I can't wait for them to come back next week and tell me if this helps them feel calmer on a daily basis.

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