A Safe Place

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by Christy, May 13, 2008.

  1. Christy

    Christy New Member

    In working through difficult child's anger issues one question counselors always ask is... Is there a place in the house where difficult child can go to calm down?

    We have a decent sized home and there are plenty of places where difficult child could go to be alone BUT when difficult child is angry, he is also destructive. We have been using his room as a place he can go to calm down but this has resulted in broken items, torn up books, ripped up clothing, stuff being thrown over the staircase. He pounds on things and kicks stuff. Knocks pictures off the wall, pulls down curtains, slams doors repeatedly, etc... Obviously this is not the safest or most ideal way to burn off his agression. So we have gradually removed items from his room to keep them from getting destroyed. This weekend difficult child had a very unstable day and trashed his room repeatedly to the point where he was taking out his dresser drawers and throwing them. So finally we decided to remove everything that has the potential to be a safety issue. We took the doors off and the shelves out, we removed the TV, the dresser, the bunkbeds. He now has a room which consists of a mattress, pillow, bedding, and stuffed animals. He has blinds on the windows for privacy but no curtains and no pictures on the wall. The room is decoratively painted and with his bedding and animals, it still looks cozy but with the exception of the windows (which have not been problem so far), his room is pretty much rage proof.

    I'm wondering if any of you have a specific area in the home designated as a place for difficult child to go to calm down? If so, has this been successful?

    Thanks for your input,
  2. jal

    jal Member

    Straight jacket and a closet.
    Just kidding....our difficult child does the same thing so I can certainly sympathize. This beautiful room that we decorated before he was born with all new furniture, rugs, lamps etc. has been destroyed. He no longer has a door as he slammed it so many times he actually broke it. He has broken the left side of his closet door. One wall is filled with scratches, knicks from kicking and throwing things repeatedly. It makes me so sad. When he goes to his room things come flying out. As they are thrown out they are taken away. I continue to send him there to calm down because otherwise any other place I put him in he would do exactly the same. Better to have one room a mess than a whole house.
  3. 4sumrzn

    4sumrzn New Member

    Hey jal.....that's really not far from the truth on what's "needed"! LOL. Actually, difficult child's doctor did mention the closet at one point....as a "safer place"....seriously! Problem with her room....after holes in the wall/door & everything destroyed, we were considering even boarding up the window because there have been attempts to break it. So, my answer is NO...we do not have a safe place in the home for her to calm down. I really wish we did.
  4. pepperidge

    pepperidge New Member

    It is one thing to have a relatively safe place, it is another thing to get your difficult child to go there when they are raging. We used to have to sit at the door (on the inside of the room to keep difficult child from getting out and trashing the rest of the house. It was exhausting and frightening for us to say the least.

    good luck.
  5. klmno

    klmno Active Member

    Well, the "safe place" works for us when difficult child is relatively stable on medications and we both (or one of us) notices an indicator that we need a break from each other for a few minutes or that he needs to take a break from whatever he is doing because it is causing him too much frustration. When "realatively stable" isn't where difficult child is to start out with, and it sounds to me like your difficult child isn't there right now, then this approach doesn't work. If I can catch difficult child when he is coming out of hypomania, this is the time I start reminding him of the "safe place" option and other strategies he can choose to try to help things from going backwards again. To clarify- the safe place won't stop the raging if it has already started- it is a strategy to prevent it from starting.

    Trust me, if you knew all we've been through the past few weeks, you would see that this doesn't always work in my house either. I was just told by the 2nd counselor in 2 weeks that difficult child is still cycling and until medications get him more stable, we can't get much farther. So, I would say if raging is a frequent event, work on medications first. Of course, psychiatrist says that counseling should take care of the rest, but psychiatrist is the only person to say this. Other than the PO, who apparently thinks more punishment will cure it.

    Good luck!!
  6. Steely

    Steely Active Member

    A safe place is good in theory - but with a lot of our kids - they get too angry too fast to even make it to a safe place. Furthermore, their rage causes them to want to destroy things, not seek solitude.

    difficult child used to use his closet in times of more angst rather than rage - but the difficult child rage is a beast all to it's own.

    One doctor suggested that difficult child break old plates when he got angry. Uh, yea. That worked. It only escalated the anger even more. Old plates, new plates, walls, tvs - suddenly all the cards are off the table.

    Unfortunately the only thing that has helped quell my difficult children anger, besides maturity, is medications. If he starts to feel that rage, and can take a PRN medication, he is able to calm down. The good news, is that as he has matured, these episodes are farther and fewer between.
  7. meowbunny

    meowbunny New Member

    I was fortunated that I had a spare bedroom when mine was young. Her room had her bed, a ceiling lamp and some things in the closet. I had a sheet of plexiglass that I could bolt across her window. Her toys and clothes were in the spare room. So, her room became her "safe" room. I still left some things in it for her to destroy (old comforters, the clothes left in her closet) and throw (pillows, nerf balls, etc.). I found if the room was totally "safe" it made it worse for her. She really did need to release the frustration.

    Fortunately, by the time she reached the age and size that I couldn't physically put her in the room alone she had learned some anger-coping skills. Plus, peer pressure was beginning to have an effect and she wanted to be able to play in HER room with her friends. This helped her to keep from destroying her room in its entirety.

    One thing that did help make the room more acceptable was the explanation by her therapist, her social worker and me that this was not a punishment but was to protect her. If she broke things in other parts of the house, she could really get hurt (we filmed a plate being broken against a wall and replayed it for her in slow motion to show how the broken glass shattered). This made some of the fighting to be taken there a little less (not much, but enough where she didn't try to kill me putting her in there). It is very important that a safe room not be perceived as a punishment. It is a place for a person to gain control and, if necessary, be able to vent.
  8. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    Christy, our difficult child uses his room and sometimes his closet. We have taken pictures and breakable items out of his room. He doesn't even have a bed frame or box spring.
    There are already holes in the walls and the other day he broke a window. So there's not much more he can do.
    The closets are both walk-in. At one point he had a small child's desk inside one of the closets and he enjoyed just sitting there. I think the lack of clutter helps calm him down.
    I would suggest stripping his room and not bothering to decorate. As an artist, I spent more than a few days and nights grieving over the very cool room I was designing for our difficult child (he already has cloud wallpaper, and I wanted to buy a faux log cabin bunk bed), but I realized it was never going to happen. His safety comes first.
    These kids are not "normal." So don't worry about whether he had a "normal" room. Think calmness, safety, and a sense of place with-o any decoration.
    I hope that helps.
  9. weatheringthestorm

    weatheringthestorm New Member

    I think WE need the safe place :)

    When in a rage difficult child will be destructive, just like every before me said. He and his brother share a room. When his brother starts seeing the signs of the rage he discreetly starts bringing his "important" stuff out. Sometimes we have to go on a rescue mission for the little bros stuff, but it usually works out.

    Most of the time difficult child won't even goe into his room when he's getting mad. We want him to go in there early to have time to calm down. If the medications are working he cooperates with that. If they're not, it doesn't matter. We have to remove ourselves from him. This can be hard since he follows!

    I think medications are way more helpful than the safe place.
  10. Christy

    Christy New Member

    Thanks for your thoughts everyone. Your experiences are similar to ours in regards to this issue. You know JAL, a straight jacket is not far from the truth! At any rate, difficult child's newly emptied room came in handy today while he was having one of his rants. He jumped around on his mattress, paced back and forth, and sat in his closet. It was so much nicer to his usual baracading the door with furniture or breaking stuff!
  11. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    When my difficult child 2 was unstable and raging like that (last summer) I had him just go outside and go for a walk down our hill and back up (he was 10 then, so old enough to be able to do that, and we're in a secluded cul-de-sac neighborhood up on a hill with nowhere for him to go). We discussed this at length ahead of time and I gave him standing permission to just leave the house and take a walk whenever he started to feel like things were getting out of control.

    Over spring break this year, husband went out and bought a punching bag to hang in the yard as another outlet for difficult child 2. We're really trying to get him to take the initiative to remove himself from a situation before it escalates, and for the most part, it just takes a simple cue from one of us for him to do it when he needs to (of course, I think a lot of that has to do with the medications actually working now).
  12. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    difficult child's newly emptied room came in handy today while he was having one of his rants. He jumped around on his mattress, paced back and forth, and sat in his closet. It was so much nicer to his usual baracading the door with furniture or breaking stuff!

    Very good! Way To Go!
    And he stayed in there, too. :)
  13. Shari

    Shari IsItFridayYet?


    I was gonna also suggest a small tent or something ythat can be set up in the corner. My difficult child, along with a lot of others, tend to be drawn to small "safe" places when they're in the midst of difficult child-ness.

    We also have several plexiglass windows.
  14. Christy

    Christy New Member

    I'm glad to hear that technique is working for your son. It is so important for difficult children to learn a way to burn off anger safely. Great idea. We have a larged fenced backyard and a trampoline and I will send difficult child out sometimes to run and jump it off but he is currently fighting any attempt we have at diffuse his temper and will often not do it just because he knows we are trying to help him. Taking control enough to do something to help yourself is a big step. Good for your difficult child!

    Thanks Terry. I hope things are going well for you!
  15. Christy

    Christy New Member

    That's a good idea. He used to have bunkbeds that formed a T and he would hang a blanket over the edge to make a hideout underneath. A tent would be a nice safe addition to his room.

  16. Shari

    Shari IsItFridayYet?

    You can even get those tents that go over the bed. I've never got one, but I'm sure difficult child would like it. When he's really off, he'll sleep in his little tent or a similar small space.