Starting the Day With a Calming Routine

Exercises that help young students who’ve experienced trauma transition into the school day in a relaxed and ready state.

By Lori Desautels

July 26, 2019

For the past year and a half, I’ve been working with the directors and educators at St. Mary’s Early Childhood Center in Indianapolis. During my frequent visits, I’ve been introducing brain-aligned sensory and motor system strategies for emotion regulation to 3-, 4-, and 5-year-old children.

Many of these children have experienced significant adversity and trauma, and their brains are functioning in a survival state originating from these early life experiences. Many don’t have the secure emotional attachments that we all need, and as a result they may have disorganization in the lower brain regions, which prohibits healthy brain development. This can lead to disregulation and chronic behavioral, social, and academic issues.

To develop and strengthen cognition in all children, including those who have experienced trauma, we must address their level of brain development. Implementing sensory and motor system strategies for emotion regulation as part of our daily routines and transitions in early childhood provides an opportunity for sustainable healthy changes when the brain is malleable and more adaptable to experiences and environmental structures.

The routines described here can be used to begin the day with children who walk into school anxious, angry, and disregulated. They can help counteract the adversity these children often face in their lives. At St. Mary’s, we used these strategies to promote rhythmic activity and body awareness. These routines were developed for pre-K through the primary grades, and some can be implemented with older children.

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