Filled with stress management tools, a TCK Comfort Kit is a personalized kit for a child to use during times of transitions and stress.
In 2006, I moved to the Gulf Coast of Mississippi to work with families affected by Hurricane Katrina. Many of them had lost everything: their homes, their pets, even friends and family who had been scattered to new places. As you can imagine, it was an extremely difficult time for everyone.
People’s living situations changed daily: children would start new schools, families moved to new homes, and everyone would have to begin establishing themselves all over again. The families, especially the kids, had very little control over these changes in their lives.
As a way to help manage the stress of this constant change and upheaval, the organization I worked for, The Children’s Health Fund, distributed “Coping Boxes TM” to many of the children affected by the storm. These boxes were small, transportable, and provided comfort for children who were going through LOTS of transitions. The “Coping Boxes” contained crayons, paper, stickers, a finger puppet, a puzzle, silly putty. They were to be used “within a therapeutic relationship to help children develop, enhance or restore problem-solving skills associated with self-efficacy, stress management and resilience.”
Over the years, I have used versions of these in my clinical practice and have found them to be excellent therapeutic tools for kids in transition. I especially like to use them in group settings where each week we add a new skill to our box in the form of a structured activity – like deep breathing, coloring mandalas, etc. Though the original “Coping Box” targeted school age children, with a few modifications I have found them to also be effective with adolescents.
How to Make Your Own TCK Comfort Kit
While I have primarily used these in therapeutic settings, you can help your child to make their own kit at home. Below I will give directions and a list of possible things you can add to the kit. You can pick and choose what works best for your child. Each item helps with stress management, and in my experience it is best to build these kits over time so that your child can integrate each tool into their set of coping skills.
- Choose your Container: When I was with the Children’s Health Fund we used plastic lunch boxes as our container, but a shoe box works just a well. You want the container to be small enough that it fits in a suitcase or under the bed, but large enough so that it contains all of your tools.
- Introduce the Concept to your Child: Depending on the age of the child, I have different ways of introducing these to kids. I have called them “treasure chests” “hope boxes” “coping containers” etc. with the idea that they use these containers as a way to calm down, deal with stress, and feel better.
- Decorate the Container: When kids decorate their container it facilitates pride and ownership and fosters an attachment. Different kids like to use different materials, so I like to offer as many as possible- markers, paint, crayons, colored pencils, oil pastels, stickers, magazines and photos for collaging. Anything really goes. The only material I would suggest you stay away from is glitter to avoid leaving a glitter trail wherever you go.
- Tools to add to your kit:
- Stress balls: I love stress balls! I always keep one on my desk. You can buy one, or easily make one yourself by filling a balloon with flour, rice or sand and then squeeze your stress away. Koosh balls, play doh, silly putty, or any small squishy toy can serve the same purpose.
- Coloring material: Coloring is great for managing stress. Add a coloring book or a simple pad of paper and some kind of writing instrument to their kit. Again, all kids are different so find the coloring material they like the most. I like to use small mandala coloring books. Studies have found that “structured coloring of a reasonably complex geometric pattern may induce a meditative state that benefits individuals suffering from anxiety.” 
- Worry Dolls- Inexpensive to purchase or easy to make with a pipe cleaner, worry dolls originate from Guatemala. “According to the Mayan legend, when worrying keeps a person awake, he or she tells a worry to as many dolls as necessary. Then the worrier places the dolls under his or her pillow. The dolls take over the worrying for the person who then sleeps peacefully through the night. When morning breaks, the person awakens without the worries that the dolls took away during the night.” 
- Journal: Include in your kit a small journal that can be used for writing or collaging. It can be a great tool, especially for adolescents to help them clarify their thoughts and feelings as well as increase their problem solving abilities. “Expressive writing through journaling is another way to access the unconscious self. Journal writing has been linked to creativity, spiritual awareness, and expansion of the self.” 
- Personalize box or journal with things that make your child happy or have special meaning:
- For kids who move a lot it’s nice to document all the important things about each home. Here are ideas of things to take photographs of before you leave: Child’s home, child’s bedroom, school, friends, teachers, everyday people in child’s life (i.e. nanny, doorman) favorite places child likes to go (i.e. playground, café, mall), fun activities or vacations.
- Letters or printed emails
- Inspirational quotes, Bible verses, song lyrics
- Things that make you laugh- comic strips, jokes.
- Have friends write goodbye messages, and include special memories and things that they will miss about the person.
Help your child to integrate this into their life. Encourage them to add things to it and practice using their tools. Take the time to go through it with them. They will love sharing their special memories and skills with you but don’t be alarmed if your teenager has no interest sharing them with you:).
Speaking of teenagers, it might take some coaxing to get a teenager to make a comfort kit but in my experience if they put the time into making one they will use it in some capacity. It’s a great activity in a group setting for this age group.
If you are in Bogota, Colombia I offer groups and individual sessions for kids to create their TCK Comfort Kits.
I also sell TCK Comfort Kits for you to personalize at home. Please contact me at email@example.com.
 Coping Boxes, An innovative way to build child resilience in the wake of disasters. Madrid, P; Dominitz, R; Hurowitz, K; Grant, R. The Children’s Health Fund and the National Center for Disaster Preparedness, Columbia University, NY, NY. 2007 https://apha.confex.com/apha/135am/recordingredirect.cgi/id/18546
 Can Coloring Mandalas Reduce Anxiety? Nancy A. Curry and Tim Kasser, Galesburg, IL. Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, 22(2) pp. 81-85 © AATA, Inc. 2005
 The Legend of the Worry Dolls, The Worry Despository, http://www.tc.umn.edu/~mcdo0151/legend.html
 Purcell, M. (2016). The Health Benefits of Journaling. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 12, 2017, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/the-health-benefits-of-journaling/
 Stuckey, H. L., & Nobel, J. (2010). The Connection Between Art, Healing, and Public Health: A Review of Current Literature. American Journal of Public Health, 100(2), 254–263. http://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2008.156497
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