Help Prepare and Heal with Relaxation
When my children were school-aged there were many opportunities to help them learn how to relax their bodies and minds. On one occasion, my eight-year-old son was to have surgery within a week, and though I knew it was important for him to talk about his feelings, I hadn’t yet been able to get him to open up. The evening after we met the nurses at the hospital and took a tour of the children’s ward, he was a little tense, so I offered a rubdown at bedtime. I used a nice oil-based lotion and ave him the “sports special,” gently massaging his calves, knees, and feet. Within five minutes he relaxed and began to talk and talk and talk! He had questions about the hospital and his surgery and was finally able to get the reassurance he needed, but didn’t know how to ask for — that I would be there with him, that he would’t wake up during the operation, that he would be able to talk after his tonsillectomy.
The operation went smoothly, and I remembered to use the soothing power of touch relaxation with him throughout the entire experience. A foot or hand massage now and then helped us both relax and let go of scary feelings. Prayer to our “guardian angels” always provided some spiritual connection for us, so we added that too. As Polly Berrends says, “You need to understand what the fears are, and your child needs to know that her fears are understandable — not something the matter with her. Then you can pray together, opening your minds to a source of light and reassurance.”
The “Purple Light”
I had another opportunity to bring the healing effect of slowing down into practice when my six-year-old son was hit in the head by a swing at school. The cut on his head was deep and long enough to require stitches, so we had to meet his pediatrician in the emergency room. I had someone else drive, and sat in the back seat with my son, holding a cloth tightly over the cut. With my most soothing voice I helped him to stop crying, slow down, and relax. The cut bled, soaking the cloth as I held it. I asked him to imagine that a beautiful purple light was moving around the cut, healing it effortlessly and taking the pain away. He closed his eyes and began repeating, “purple light, purple light,” with me as I continued talking him through the relaxing visualization. When the two doctors cleaned his head and prepared it for stitches, they looked at each other, then at me.
“Uh, well, your son has really good healing powers,” one of them said. “This cut has completely closed. It should need stitches but it really doesn’t. Are you sure this happened today?” On the way home I let my son know that I was proud and impressed by the way he healed himself. After that, we used the “purple light” whenever healing was needed. This visualization always helped to both relax and distract him.
Pay Attention to What is Not Happening
In Taoism, it is important to keep an awareness of emptiness. That is, what is not there is as important as what is there. The t’ui who circle is a calligraphic meditation on this subject, in which the student makes a circle with a calligraphy pen and meditates upon it. Without the emptiness of what the circle contains, there is no circle. So it is important to pay attention to what is not happening as well as what is. A child’s silence does not mean he has nothing on his mind.
Make a physical connection through massage and relaxation at bedtime to facilitate talks with an older child. Especially if you have massaged your kids as babies, giving them nightly “rubdowns” creates an atmosphere of trust. If your child needs to cry or express fear, let him; assure him that what he feels is natural, that he is always guided and protected, and that it is okay to cry sometimes, to let out tension, frustration, fear, or grief.
Help Calm Your Child with Relaxation
When my daughter was eight years old, it was her turn for a relaxation/visualization lesson that was of great benefit to me, too. She was to have eight teeth removed at once in preparation for braces — a scary proposition for both of us. At first I tried the normal route, having discussed the procedure the night before and prepared her well for it. I sat in the waiting room after getting her settled. When I heard her begin to scream and cry in pain and fear, I, in full lioness mode, went charging back into the operating area, fully tense and ready to yank her out of the dentist’s hapless hands. Then I stopped. As he and his nurses blathered on about how normal this was and how I should just go away for a while and everything would be under control, I stood, letting my energy sink into the earth where it could hold me. I took two or three deep belly breaths.
I explained to the dentist that I had massaged my children all their lives, and I could probably help my daughter calm down and get through the procedure relatively painlessly if he would allow me to stay with her and talk/touch her through it. Reluctantly he agreed, seeing that the alternative was that I would take her out of there. I sat near the dentist and talked to my daughter about relaxing her body, “just like we did last night.” She nodded in comprehension, and we both took a deep breath together. I quickly took her through a relaxation sequence, gently touching each area to be relaxed, breathing away the tension, from head to foot. The dentist began his work. I asked her in my soft “mommy voice” to keep her eyes closed and listen to me. I talked her through relaxing each part of her body.
I asked her to create a picture in her mind of her cat, Blackie. I helped her imagine Blackie in every detail, including how soft she was and how much she loved my daughter. Then I said, “Each time you feel scared or it hurts, imagine Blackie is rubbing against your leg, and when she does, your whole body relaxes. Can you do that?” She replied, “Mmm-hmmm.” I hummed a favorite lullaby, kept my breath deep and slow, my body relaxed, my feet planted, and imagined her fear and pain draining through my feet into the earth as I held her hand in mine. When I felt a tightening I would whisper, “Here comes Blackie,” and gently rub her hand. I felt her body relax as her mind went to the soothing imagery of her beloved pet coming to comfort her. The surgery wen faster then expected, and she healed faster than expected as well.
The dentist asked me to come to his office and give a class for his young patients’ parents on how to do what I did, because it made his job easier and everyone felt so much better.
No More NO
Toddler discipline is a conundrum for many parents; especially if we’re raised with spankings and “NO!” we’re at a loss when it comes to difficult behavior in our not-so-big-kids.
Janet Lansbury, author of No Bad Kids, Toddler Discipline Without Shame (highly recommended) says, “The words we use with our children matter, especially in trying moments. They convey perceptions about our child and the situation at hand.”
“For example, if our infant or toddler tests us by hitting and we say, ‘I won’t let you hit’ (with all the calm and confidence we can muster), while gently holding his or her hand, our child then learns:
1. My parent is a capable leader who isn’t thrown by my behavior and feels confident about preventing me from hurting him/her. I am safe.
2. My parent speaks to me honestly and directly. I am respected.
“I won’t let you. . .” also affirms to us as parents:
1. I am a capable leader and on top of this behavior, not at all threatened or challenged.
2. Even though my child is too young to share her thoughts with me, I engage with her as a whole person deserving of my respect.
This works because it lets our children know we:
— Aren’t angry
— Have their “back”
— Want to know what’s going on with them
Through this simple phrase we can:
— Model compassion, respect, manners
— Remind ourselves that our children’s challenging behavior is not a personal attack, but rather a call for our attention and usually a manifestation of their discomfort
— Be our child’s safe zone, provide relief”
Janet’s books, No Bad Kids, Toddler Discipline Without Shame, and Elevating Child Care, a Guide to Respectful Parenting, are must-have guides. She helps us understand why we need to discipline differently than we might know and how exactly to go about it. Janet has a Facebook page, and a wonderful blog at www.janetlansbury.com. Her blog is incredibly useful, practical, and inspiring.
Approaching discipline from a spiritual standpoint, we precede everything with the foundation principle of RELAX. We can help our kids to use relaxation with difficult feelings, and we can model that behavior by visibly relaxing before approaching them with respectful discipline. Again, if you learn to massage your infant through IAIM, your child will know how to relax and will both express feelings and listen to you. Respectful parenting starts in utero.
This passage by Rachel Macy Stafford of “Hands Free Mama,” is a living list to focus your parenting mission statement:
Building a Soul, One Word at a Time
“I will wait for you.”
“Take your time.”
“You make my day better.”
I say those words to my slow-moving, happy-go-lucky, noticer-of-life child.
I watch as grateful eyes light up and tiny shoulders relax.
Those words are Soul-Building Words to her.
“Mistakes mean you are learning.”
“It doesn’t have to be perfect.”
“Okay, you can have a few more minutes to work on your project.”
I say those words to my driven, contentious planner and pursuer-of-dreams child.
I watch as pressure escapes from her chest and aspirations soar higher.
Those words are Confidence-Boosting Words to her.
“I appreciate you.”
I say those words to my hard-working, often underappreciated love of my life.
I watch as tensions loosen, eyes meet, and conversation comes easier.
Those words are Affirming and Connective Words to him.
“It’s good enough for today.”
“Be kind to yourself.”
“Today matters more than yesterday.”
I say those words to my own perfection-seeking, worrisome heart that tends to replay past mistakes.
I watch as my clenched hands open and tears fall as scars come to the surface.
Those are Healing, Hope-Filled Words to me.
Let “Relax, Slow Down, Breathe” be Your Motto
NEXT POST: CRAFTING A PARENTING MISSION STATEMENT
© 2014 Vimala McClure