DBT for Preschoolers?

Vinitha Pastor's picture

Sunday mornings in my house typically go like this.. We wake up at 7am (because my small children have not gained an appreciation for sleeping in.) I turn on PBS for them for a morning of “Curious George,” “Sesame Street,” “Cat in the Hat.” While their eyes are glued to the TV, I somehow stumble around, getting them bowls of Cheerios, and gulping down enough coffee so I can function.

This Sunday was no different. As I drank coffee and caught up on Facebook and Twitter the show “Dinosaur Train” came on. I actually like this one. It focuses on a family of Pteranodons, a mom, a dad, and their four children, one of whom is a Tyrannosaurus Rex (they adopted him when they found his egg.) They travel throughout time periods on the Dinosaur Train learning about different dinosaurs, led by the train’s conductor, Mr. Conductor. Mr. Conductor introduces this episode with “Today, we’re going to learn how spending time in nature is a great way to calm down and relax.” What???? My half-mindful and not-yet caffeinated brain did a double take. A PBS preschoolers show is talking about a concept we teach every day in DBT??? So I watched.

In the episode, everyone had to spend some time in the nest because it was too rainy to go outside. Tensions and irritation rose and the children started fighting. When it finally stopped raining and they could go outside, Mrs. Pteranodon told them “Sometimes the best way to work things out is to first take time out for ourselves,” and then sent everyone to find their “calm space.” Once each child was able to find their “calm space,” they practiced just noticing what was around them, and noticing their sense of calm.

During a time of high emotion, like during an argument, sometimes the most effective thing to do is to step away from it and calm down. Finding a “calm space” can help during these moments, but also when we just need to step away from life for a little bit. We call that taking a BRIEF vacation. Distress tolerance is all about learning to deal with those moments of high stress in the most effective way. It seems like Mrs. Pteranodon was trying to help the children deal with their irritation, but also her own. She even told Mr. Pteranodon at one point, when he asked where the kids were “It’s something new I’m trying.” Noticing just what is around you is what we teach in mindfulness practice. Sometimes that’s all we can do, and it helps to have that focus on what is around, as opposed to what might be going on in our heads.

A big shout out to PBS! Most likely without realizing it, they have taught preschoolers everywhere distress tolerance and mindfulness skills.
If you want to see this episode, you can find it at http://pbskids.org/dinosaurtrain/videos/index.html The name of the episode is called “Rainy Day Fight.”