Navigating Childhood in a Chaotic World — 3 helpful tools

Quick practical tips for parents & carers of worried youngsters

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I remember as a child being obsessed with dying young. It wasn’t a desire; I was convinced the world would end before I had time to grow up. That was the seedling of my procrastination pattern; my Peter Pan syndrome - desperately trying to slow time down - began. I would test any mother’s patience, including my own, who was punctual and had 5 other children to raise.

My family wasn’t religious, yet every night, I kneeled to pray by my bedside, with my tiny hands poised over my pocket sized New Testament bible, hoping for more pages in Revelation. I don’t think my mother knew the extent of my fears. Perhaps, my concerns were laughed away? I really cannot remember.

I look back on the memory and, although I cannot recall my age, I know from my mother’s pattern of moving home every 4 years, that I was somewhere between 4–8 years old, possibly aged 7. That’s too young to be feeling the weight of the “End of the world is nigh” on any child’s shoulders.

Clearly, my fears were unfounded.

Children growing up these days have so much more to obsess about:

  • Self image — comparing themselves to their idols whose lives are magnified under the social media microscope

There’s nothing wrong with Instaglam lifestyles, if that’s what you want to aspire to, but that’s after a healthy sense of self-worth and self-love is firmly embedded within the person — child or adult.

  • Cyberbullying — that sense of not feeling safe, not even in your own home, must leave children feeling insecure.
  • Panic attacks — in the UK, a teachers’ union stated that children as young as 4 are experiencing panic attacks and anxiety
  • How unsafe the world seems with random attacks and the constant exposure to these as the reports loop on the radio, television and people naturally react on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms.

While I don’t think that children are concerned with waiting times to be referred for support and the rise of poor mental health in children, as adults we need to be concerned:

  • Mental health — a quarter of a million children in England are receiving care for their mental health, according to data from 60% of mental health trusts (The Guardian, 2016)
  • Referrals to services — waiting time to access support through Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) in some cases were too long and varied from under 4 weeks to a year (the Association of Child Psychotherapists citing The Sunday Times investigation).

So, how can you as a parent, reassure your child when we live in uncertain, chaotic and sometimes volatile times? I’m sure you’re doing the best you can; that’s all we can do.

You may be worrying over how to allay your loved ones’ fears.

That’s why I’m sharing 3 tools with you, that you may want to play with (which may be new to you, or serve as a reminder). Please note, in using these techniques, you are accepting full responsibility for you and your child’s wellbeing. These techniques are offered as tools to empower you to help your child manage some of the emotions they may experience in relation to the world today. In no way is this intended as a substitution for seeking professional medical or psychological support):

1 . Getting Control Over the Nervous System

Teach your child to close their mouth — not to stop them talking, although you may pray some days for a bit of peace and quiet — tell them to take their tongue to the roof of their mouth, and relax their jaw.

Practice this quick and easy tool with them, which will help you to immediately guide them beyond feeling stressed or frazzled into a state of calm. The longer your child can leave their tongue resting up there, you’ll notice signs such as their breathing slowing down and perhaps their shoulders drop, as they release the tension they’ve been holding there.

2 . Making a heart based connection with your child.

Sit quietly. Settle your breathing. If you know how to do diaphragmatic breathing — let your stomach expand as you inhale, and retract as you exhale, take a couple of relaxing breaths.

Now, let your breath fall into a nice rhythmic pattern e.g. inhale for a count of 6, and exhale for a count of 6.

Now you are feeling calm, imagine a pink light entering your heart space. Let it fill your chest.

Recall a time you felt love, joy, appreciation or gratitude. Allow yourself to feel that emotion again.

Now, visualise your child opposite you and see that pink light extending out from your heart to theirs. Allow them to feel the love that’s in your heart, the love you have for them to fill their heart centre. If it feels right, you can convey a sense of feeling safe, of being able to communicate to you anything that is worrying them. Do this in your mind, as though you’re having a real conversation with them.

The above will take 5 minutes, or longer, if you wish. When you feel a sense of ‘completion’ or that it’s ‘enough’, visualise hugging your child, and as you do, notice how your pink light retracts back into your heart, as your child’s pink beam retracts into their heart. Say a quiet thank you and allow that image of your child to vanish.

The above may feel a bit strange at first, if you’re not used to connecting in this way.

3. Learn to Tap, then teach your child

EFT — Emotional Freedom Technique — is a great way to calm our nerves, and drill down to what’s making us feel fear, sad or worried. Learn to tap and then teach your child. If there have been tricky times in your or your child’s life, then it’s advisable to work with a qualified EFT practitioner who can keep you feeling safe if you ‘unearth’ a traumatic memory. Tapping along with people like Brad Yates or the Tapping Solution and once you’re confident with the technique, you can change the words so they’re suitable for your child to repeat as you tap together.

Why not try one of the quicker techniques today? Make it a daily practice, like brushing your teeth (I would’ve mentioned as routine as your kids brushing their teeth, but like them swearing they’ve washed their hands after going to the toilet, sometimes, you’ve got to send them back to the bathroom). Build it into your routine.

Yes, you may not have time, while shouting for the umpteenth time that they need to get out of bed, or they’ll be late for school;

While making breakfast and tripping over the dog, before rushing out the house for your 9.00AM meeting, you don’t have time…

But, dedicating 5–10 minutes a day could save you months of worry later and alleviate your child’s fears now. Plus, you’re building bonds, a deeper connection with your child. Surely, the ROI is worth shaving time off some part of both your days to create a window for more peace.