Three ways to move your child from anxious to calm
- Mums Tips
- Parenting Skills
- Published on Tuesday, 30 August 2022 10:47
- Last Updated on 19 September 2022
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In this blog, I am providing tips to move your child from anxious to calm.
On the 20th of January 2012, my life changed.
My son was born, and within a few minutes, he was ripped away from us to have surgery.
I remember being called into the room and the surgeon looking down at the floor; it was clear it was bad news.
In a shaken voice, he told us there was no hope, and our son would not survive.
I zoomed out as I felt my partner’s head on my shoulder and heard her tears.
He said we would be lucky if our son lasted a week and that there were no treatment options.
Our son was the first child to be born without any small bowel.
I insisted on speaking to more experts, and he was still here after a week.
The first year in the hospital was a nightmare. We knew 20% of the children didn’t make it out of the ward.
So every day was a fight against time—a battle between fear and love.
They told us not to hold him, but we luckily ignored them as I knew about the research done on the impact of babies not getting touched.
Every day we would take him out and hold him skin to skin.
So for a few hours, he had comfort.
He learned that the world could also be safe.
They said he would never be off the machine that infused food into him, but we insisted they would try an hour of a day to see if he would be stable.
He was, so we kept pushing the boundaries of what was possible.
Until one day, he could be off the machine for 12 hours so we could go home.
That was after a year in the hospital.
The future presented many obstacles, and I took the NHS to the high court to secure the care he needed to be safe, but they eventually folded and gave in.
Over the next five years, he had more than 20+ surgeries, and we spent a year in the hospital.
Like most of the children in the transplant unit, he was scared of touch as their first experiences in this world were painful and harmful, so their bodies learned that the world was unsafe before they even had language to explain their experience.
Traditional talk therapy does little to nothing for the trauma that is primarily stored in the body.
This is even more, the case when it happened before we developed language and purely experienced the world through our bodily sensations.
I realized that to help him heal and flourish, I needed other tools than traditional therapy, so I started researching and found somatic experienceing by Peter Levine.
A therapy that works with the body and allows the stress response that was incomplete to be completed so the organism can be restored and trauma released.
I started implementing the somatic trauma tools with your son, and it was incredible to witness him becoming comfortable with touch, his body and life again.
Fear turned to joy.
I started teaching them in the hospital how to prevent children from being traumatised by allowing them a sense of control over their bodies and working with consent.
I am so happy to be joining theembodylab for their somatic trauma certificate to expand further my knowledge of the tools I saw transform my son’s life.
Let’s look at three tools I used to deal with the stress and anxiety and restore safety and calm.
Touch is the first way we learn to feel comfortable as we come into this world and are held.
It’s how our nervous system learns to feel safe—the first point of contact with the world.
It’s also the most significant organ and connects to our calming nervous system.
Ensure your children get plenty of safe, comforting touch; however, if they have resistance or don’t want it, ensure you respect their boundaries.
Unwanted, sexual or forced touch is harmful and will have the opposite effect. So never do any of these under any circumstances.
Boundaries & Sense of control
Most often unaware, we force physical touch on our children and make our love conditional.
This could be tickling them or lifting them for a hug and kiss without asking for consent.
This teaches them that they have no right to their no and so makes them feel less safe in the world and teaches them that to get love, they must allow access to their body.
Try asking for consent.
Explain to your child that it’s their body, and they have the right to decide who can and can’t touch them, and they have the right to change their mind too.
Then follow this through with action by asking before you hug them, kiss them, or touch them.
And if they say no, don’t pull away love. Instead, acknowledge them and thank them for expressing their boundaries, and tell them you are here if they change their mind.
Practise with them to say no, and what to do when someone does not respect a no.
This gives them a sense of control over their physical space, which is the first step to feeling safe in our environment.
When a child has a traumatising experience which can be any experience that is overwhelming for them and where the stress response is not completed.
Suppose the stress response was not completed because it went into a freeze response. In that case, the experience can be stuck and continue to cause issues that are often manifested in challenging behaviours.
This can become a vicious cycle as the child continues to get in trouble, and stress and isolation escalate.
Re-enactment can be helpful when the child is guided back to a similar experience, but this time they are in control and supported in fighting or escaping the threat.
This can slowly help restore a felt sense of safety. I recommend doing this with a trained professional.
Here is a bonus tip
Only in recent years has neuroscience discovered the benefits of movement and its impact on our mental health, prevention and recovery from anxiety and depression and benefits to memory function and our body.
The evidence is overwhelming.
My somatic therapist taught me three golden rules of life.
1. Notice your feet. If we pay attention to the soles of our feet, we can notice the temperature or sensation, bringing us back to the present moment.
2. If stressed, move your body. It’s the natural way for the organism to restore calm. So dance, run, do boxing. Anything that allows you to move.
3. When tired, allow your body to rest. When we forget this, we get worn out, and our mental health is more fragile in that place. So listen to your body and teach your children the same.
If you need support, then reach out on my website.
Learn more at the theembodylab on their somatic trauma certificate or monthly membership.
Thomas is the Founder of Zensensa.com, the leading institute in authentic relating.
He provides counselling for couples and singles and is an author and workshop facilitator.