Principal & Clinic: Safe Place
How to Use a Safe Place in the Principal’s Office
The Safe Place is a center where children can go to change their inner state from upset to composed in order to optimize learning. It is the centerpiece of your self-regulation program. The principal and any other administrators who see students in their offices should set up a Safe Place in these spaces to help children calm themselves during times of upset.
A chair, beanbag, throw rug or pillow serves as a base for your Safe Place. Fill the Safe Place with tools and activities that lead children through the five steps of self-regulation: I Am, I Calm, I Feel, I Choose, I Solve. The I Am step involves the initial upset when the child becomes the emotion. “I am angry!” The I Am Smock is helpful for demonstrating this stage of upset. The I Calm step requires active calming, featuring the four main breathing techniques, access to a Friends and Family book, and other calming activities. The I Feel step includes identifying the feeling with the Feeling Buddies or a Feeling chart. The I Choose step requires the child to consciously choose additional calming activities utilizing the Brain Smart Choice Cube, I Choose Self-Control Board and/or class-made choice boards. The I Solve step involves the child solving the original problem before returning to work or play, often through the use of the Conflict Resolution Time Machine.
Problem solving is a higher-order skill, and most children who arrive in the office will be operating from the lower centers of the brain. Simply put, an upset child is not a thinking child. It is essential for the administrator to assist the child in completing the first four self-regulation steps before attempting to address the problem that brought the child to the office (step five).
The Safe Place is discussed in detail, including activities and images, in Chapter 9 of Creating the School Family. Helpful music for the Safe Place includes “Bye Bye Crankies” on Songs for I Love You Rituals Volume 2, “Snuggle Up” on Songs for I Love You Rituals Volume 1, “S.T.A.R. Song” on It Starts in the Heart, “You Can Relax Now” on Kindness Counts, and “Calm Your Brain” and “Safe and Calm” on Brain Boogie Boosters.