Dad Life

Your Kid Needs A ‘Coping Space’ Right Now And Here’s How To Make It Work For The Family

coping spaces for kids

My apartment is an average size. It’s perfect for one person.

Add two kids, 10 and 7, and quarters get a little cramped.

Especially when the kids start pushing one another’s buttons, this only happens every 50 minutes of every hour.

The constant fighting is happening for countless reasons – homeschooling sucks, neither has seen a kid besides their sibling in months, every day feels the same, and eavesdropping on adults talking about how this quarantining is nowhere close to being over.

Fatherly spoke with Dr. Carla Marie Manly, a clinical psychologist and author of Joy from Fear.

Dr. Manly broke down the idea behind the “coping space” and the rules that need to be followed for the area to work for kids.

“During this pandemic — with prevalent anxiety, uncertainty, and change in routine — children need a ‘quiet space.’ When children are overstimulated and overwhelmed, they can easily become upset, angry, frustrated, or sad.

Ideally, we want a child to be able to seek out the quiet space before he or she is feeling overwhelmed or highly frustrated.”

The good news – as Dr. Manly explains – is that the quiet or coping space doesn’t need to be large or very secluded at all.

Imagine Randy, the little brother from A Christmas Story, finding refuge in the cabinet under the sink.

In fact, the spot can be anywhere in the house and created with just blankets, boxes, or in small, comforting spaces.

Dr. Manly encourages parents to put as many “self-soothing” items inside the coping space as possible and shared how a coping space worked when her son was young.

“When my first son was young, his quiet space was a large cardboard moving box that could be opened up, moved, and folded up with ease. He liked adding a blankie as a door,” Dr. Manly says. “What was most important was that he knew this space was always accessible.”

For the coping space to work, rules need to be followed. These rules apply for the child, parents, siblings, and other family members.

“The rules are a large part of why it works,” Fatherly explains, “and it is important that the whole family respects them. This can be difficult with siblings who don’t have the same needs and don’t understand how the quiet place works. Parents can reinforce this idea by respecting the rules of the quiet place- and even establishing quiet spaces of their own.”

While the coping space is to help younger kids cope with anxiety, there’s no reason it can’t work for older kids and even adults.

These are crazy times. Mom or dad reading under the kitchen table probably wouldn’t look that weird to anyone.

Check out the entire interview with Dr. Manly over on Fatherly.com.

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