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How to Give Yourself a Time-Out

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Have you ever given your child a time-out more to give him a break in the action and a few moments to regroup than to actually punish him? A few minutes in a chair or a corner can be just the distraction kids with special needs require to move on to something less disruptive. But why should they get all the breaks? Parents can use a time-out now and then, too. Whether you’ve already lost your temper or feel like you might soon, here’s how to get yourself that stress-release time you need.
Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: Five minutes should do it

Here's How:

  1. Pick your time-out spot. Probably not the same little chair you banish your kids to, but rather a place where you can hide for a few minutes while you blow off steam and let strong emotions pass. Your bedroom may be the most logical place, but anyplace with a door that can shut out the world will do.
  2. Let your kids know where you’re going. Tell them you’re giving yourself a time-out, and then get in the zone. Seeing an adult deal with stress, annoyance and loss of control in a way that doesn’t involve yelling is a good lesson in coping skills. And if you’ve already blown your top, you’re at least letting them know that you’ve planned for this and are still the adult in charge.
  3. Set a time limit. It would be nice if we could actually take that minute-for-every-year-of-age we throw at our kids. Most of us would have time to read a book, watch a TV show, maybe even take a nice long bath. But most of us would also find the house a disaster when we finally emerged. Five minutes should be enough time to cool down but not enough time for the situation outside the door to heat up.
  4. Don’t sit still. Kids in time-out may need to stop that squirming, but stretching exercises are great for releasing tension when mom or dad’s in time-out. Throwing yourself on your bed and pounding pillows is pretty therapeutic, too.
  5. Take a deep breath. Slow, measured, deep breathing is one of the best and quickest ways to calm yourself down and de-stress. Try counting to 10 while breathing in, then doing the same while breathing out.
  6. Listen to music. Though you may have to confiscate your daughter’s iPod when she’s in time-out, parents in time-out get to listen to whatever they want, preferably something calming and quiet -- but if it relaxes you, anything goes.
  7. Think about what you’ve done. Just like their children, parents in time-out should give some thought to what preceded their banishment and how they might have behaved differently. Could you have handled the situation differently? Do you need to make an adjustment in your children’s environment to lower your family’s stress level? Do you need to get yourself into time-out just a little bit sooner?
  8. Get a grip. You don’t want to hide in your room forever, but you do want to stay there until you’ve calmed down enough to handle things again. As we notice with our children, repeating time-outs too frequently in too short a period of time greatly limits their effectiveness.
  9. Explain yourself. When you come back into the world, acknowledge the fact that you were gone. If you feel you were in the wrong, apologize for the way you behaved. And if you don’t, talk with your kids about what made you frustrated and how you all could have handled things better. Coping with stress and annoyance is hard for everyone -- and talking about good ways to do it is useful for everyone, too.
  10. Share your techniques. Once your kids have seen you take yourself out of the game for a time-out a time or two, encourage them to give themselves time-outs when needed. Whether they go to their time-out chair or their rooms, being able to anticipate meltdowns and heading them off is an enormously useful skill for kids with special needs. And all you have to do is go to your room to teach it.
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