Several counselors in Frisco ISD have added virtual calming rooms to their counseling websites based on the social-emotional needs of their virtual and face-to-face students. By offering students a virtual calming room, students now have 24/7 access to self-regulation strategies.
Self-regulation helps students learn that they can cope with strong feelings and gives them the ability to calm themselves down when their emotions begin to overwhelm them. Whether in a school setting or later in life, these social-emotional life skills pay dividends over time.
“We try to teach the students that while some things are out of our control, we can always control our reaction to each circumstance,” said Cathy Lovelace, Pioneer Heritage Middle School counselor.
District counselors regularly teach coping skills, including breathing exercises and mindfulness techniques, when students are on campus. Teachers also regularly facilitate scheduled social-emotional lessons written by FISD counselors that instill numerous self-regulation strategies.
“With quarantines and self-isolation in the spring, we started to see that our students needed access virtually to strategies that we regularly use in the counseling setting on campus,” Lovelace said.
Each virtual calming room is different and many offer links to calming music or sounds, meditations, cell phone apps, mindful breathing exercises or even relaxing nature videos. Counselors are finding that access to these relaxation techniques is more valuable than ever during this time.
Riddle Elementary School counselor Julie Wright said these resources are a good way to connect with students, whether students are learning on campus or remotely.
“Self-regulation strategies are important to children of all ages,” Wright said. “Our Kindergarten students learn how the feeling part of the brain (the amygdala) can impact the thinking part of the brain (the prefrontal cortex.)
“Even our youngest students learn breathing techniques and other strategies to calm down and focus. The virtual calming room gives all students access to a place where they can use calming tools when needed.”
The calming rooms are not intended as psychological interventions or as a substitute for psychological treatment but instead as an additional resource. The goal is to empower students and give them tools at their fingertips to help them grow towards greater independence and self-management.
“The key is that these students are learning, using and accessing these strategies when they are calm and they don’t necessarily need them yet,” said Jill Davis, Pioneer Heritage counselor. “Mental health impacts physical health and we want our students to be healthy in every way.
“These tools can be used by anyone and many teachers have been using the virtual calming strategies to help get students in a calm state of mind before assessments.”
Davis said the rooms have benefited students who may never have needed help before.
“I had a parent email me recently regarding their child being anxious about returning to school and she told me that her child was using belly breathing to relax her mind before she went to bed at night,” Wright said. “I love hearing that strategies are getting used!”
With virtual calming rooms and their accessible tools catching on at more and more campuses, it is safe to say they are here to stay.
Check out your campus counselor page to see if they offer a virtual calming room, or visit these examples:
Frisco ISD parents can regularly access tools from the Guidance and Counseling Department by subscribing to their newsletter here.