So you've already worked on recognizing your own childhood traumas and losses and insecurities and grieving them, and then developing the skill for parental sensitivity, the ability to attune to the emotions of your child through understanding your own emotions. Emotions, mm-hmm. emotions. Now we want you to learn to develop the capacity for being an effective, soothing, comforting presence to your.
The reason we have an attachment system is because it drives our children towards us in order to help them regulate their nervous system so that their brain can focus on developing this thick, gray, prefrontal cortex matter that is more adept at complex thinking and problem solving, instead of having to send all of those resources in this lower brainstem slash limbic system, parts of the brain that are more focused on survival.
Cool. , this is specifically important in moments that we describe in the research as distress or tender in need. So what does that mean? Well, distress is really about fear of survival and that survival fear might be around physical risk, but it also might be around social risk, like the fear of being ousted from the community, um, in the cases of shame.
The key to offering, the key to offering your children a sense of comfort when they are in that distress or that tender need is being calm and present. A lot of people confuse calmness with numbness, so they learn in their childhoods to shut down and shut off their feelings, and that was considered being calm, but that's actually not calm, that's disassociated.
If calmness had a voice, it would be something like, I can handle this. We will get through. I will be a safe refuge for my child to go through the ups of their emotions and then come back down. But I will remain present, steady and attentive to them so that they can rely on my calmness and borrow it as they feel this immense surge of emotion in their body.
We wanna watch what it is that's comforting to our children. And not all children are comforted in the same way. Children are more sensitive and so they need extra attentiveness and they need us to be extra expressive in our faces saying, I'm so sorry you're in pain. This looks so hard. And using our words and our.
Our, our soothing measures. Other children are super sensitive in ways that the in experience of our empathy actually overwhelms them. So we want to kind of tune it down and say, I'm here. I'm here. Right. Our face is less expressive because our expressiveness overwhelms them. So we're like attending to what it is that helps our.
Start to he down into the path of that calming neurotransmitter response in their brain. And if we notice that what we're doing is starting to heed them up into that excitatory part of their brain, then we're gonna kind of shift gears and move sideways towards something that is going to affect them positively.
A lot of trial and error to this and our children changes they develop. So sometimes what worked last month, last stage won't work this month and this. But always gets there though, is paying attention and watching and studying our children and their rhythms and what it is that happens between us in, in terms of what helps them feel calm and safe and soothed.
I usually say to my children when they're really upset, I'm here, can I hold you? Would you like me to hold you? Sometimes I say no, because they're heightened in a way. Maybe they're heightened with anger and they're afraid. If they get close to me, they'll hurt me, but. Something in the way of them feeling ready to kind of melt and be soothed in a way.
And that's fine. So then I say, okay, I'll be right here when you're ready. Where do you want me closer or further? Very rarely do they ask me to go further once I've asked that question. Just knowing I'm willing to go further away helps them feel safe, like they have some control in the situation. And then once they are willing to kind of melt into your body, you put your arms around them, their little heads on your shoulder, maybe you have your hand around their head.
you can just rock and hold them. This can happen with an eight year old or a three month old. It really doesn't matter how old they are. I've done this with teenagers, right? Like who? Who I've done this with. My husband. Anybody else? Anybody else? Bring them close and let your energy be. I am here. I am with you.
We will get through this together. You are not a burden to me. You're not overwhelming for me. I don't need your emotions to go away. Right now. We are going to get. Once you get this rhythm of, of being present and attentive and attuned and receiving their feelings and remaining grounded in your own calmness while you are receiving their feelings.
It's a lot of repeat, rinse and repeat. That's the phrase. It's a lot of rinse and repeat. It's like, oh, this is about the Popsicle. Oh, now it's about the truck. Oh, now it's about the breakup you just had. Oh, now it's about the job you just lost. Right? Like we're staying in this parent relationship where we are saying, I am a safe haven for you to feel tender.
I'm going to be with you. I'm gonna hold you, and I'm gonna remain calm and separate from you so that you aren't flooded by my reactions to your reactions. And then, We're gonna melt together. There's gonna be a mouthiness that happens and then you are co-regulating. I'm gonna be more regulated and satisfied that I got to be that way for you, and then you're gonna feel better that I was that way for you.
It is hard when our children are dysregulated, but I also like to think of it as this incredible opportunity to bond with them, because that's what it is. So when they're dysregulated, it's they need help and they need us, and we get to be the safe space where they are nurtured, seen, heard, and comfort.
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-Focus on recognizing own childhood traumas, losses, insecurities, and grieving them
- Develop the skill of parental sensitivity and ability to attune to child's emotions
- Have the capacity for being an effective, soothing, and comforting presence for child
- Reason for attachment system is to help children regulate their nervous system and focus on developing complex thinking and problem-solving skills
- Offer comfort to children during moments of distress or tender need
- Comfort is key to calming the child's nervous system
- Confuse calmness with numbness, but calmness is about being present and steady
- Different children have different ways of feeling comforted, so pay attention and adapt to what works best for the child
- Offer comfort through words, facial expressions, and physical presence
- Be willing to adjust comfort style if it's not working
- Use trial and error to figure out what helps the child feel calm and safe
- Sometimes children need space, but offer comfort when they are ready
- Offer comfort through physical touch such as holding, rocking, or having arms around the child
- Repeat the process of being a safe haven for the child to feel tender and remain calm while receiving their feelings
- Stay in the role of being a safe haven, even as the child's emotions change and evolve.