Materials and instructions
Materials: an index card; colored pencils; markers; crayons; stickers.
Instructions: this crafty project is for children and adolescents who need a little reminder of their most effective coping skills or ways to help them to stay safe when they are feeling overwhelmed or escalated. Having a safety plan written on an index card is accessible, can be kept hidden to protect privacy, or shown to a trusted adult (teacher or family member) when additional support is needed. I have seen kids store their cards as a bookmark, in their journal, and kept in their backpack.
A safety plan can contain any number of coping skills or strategies that will help de-escalate a reaction to a situation. Ask the children and adolescents to choose five things that they find most helpful to do when they feel like they are losing control or feeling unsafe. Five is a good number because it gives a variety of options to choose from. The child or adolescent can choose what they feel will be best option for in the moment.
When creating the card, sometimes figuring out coping skills and strategies is challenging and requires children and adolescents to really think; an adult who knows the child should help come up with ideas. These need to be things that can be used immediately, in the here and now. Try to avoid requiring any specific toys or equipment because that requires extra effort. The strategies also need to be very detailed and specific. Being detailed and specific will promote brain change and way of thinking. Write the coping skills and strategies on the index card and decorate it!
Examples of coping skills and strategies
- Counting to ten in my mind while taking deep, easy breathes.
- Notice five things in the room and what color, shape or texture they are.
- Sing a song.
- Think about my favorite memory.
- Think about my favorite pet.
- Use a fidget toy.
- Read a book.
- Listen to music.
- Think of a positive self affirmation.
- Curl and uncurl my toes ten times.
- Stretch my legs and arms.
- Ride my bike.
- Notice three scents and where they are coming from.
- Feel the texture of my clothing.
Where to keep the safety plan
This card can be kept in many different places, but keep it easily accessible, which means carrying it around:
- In a pocket.
- In a desk, locker or lunch box at school.
- In a backpack.
- On the refrigerator or a mirror at home (better if there are two or more are created).
- Kept on a coffee table, dining room table or night stand.
- Used as a bookmark.