Strategies for Supporting Emotional Resiliency in Children Central Park East 2, March 18, 2015
● 4 S’s of Attachment (Dan Siegel, M.D.)
Children Need to Be:
• Seen: perceiving them deeply and empathically, “getting” them. • Safe: avoiding actions and responses that frighten or hurt them. • Soothed: helping them deal with difficult emotions and situations. • Secure: helping them develop an internalized sense of well being.
Children need to “feel felt”: “. . . requires that we attune to each other’s primary emotions. When the primary emotions of two minds are connected, a state of alignment is created in which the two individuals experience a sense of joining.”
● Create a Narrative
○ We use stories to make sense of our lives
○ Stories help us understand things that have happened to us, and to create meaning from the experiences ○ We can help our children by giving a context to their experience.
○ “You were playing with you lego castle and when one of the army people attacked, the back of the castle came tumbling down.”
● Contingency Communication – Attunes to child’s emotional experience – Resonates with their experience
○ Example of child who brings home what you perceive as “junk” from school and describes it with a lot of enthusiasm.
○ BE CAREFUL: Even positivity is not always attuned . It often reflects your own pride/excitement, and misses a child’s experience. In the example given, by telling the child they were a superstar the parents missed that the child was scared, but mustered courage and took a risk to stick with the math homework.
● Reflecting Emotions(theirs, not yours) – Builds on emotional attunement
○ Communicates: “I see you and I’m listening to you and I’ll give back to you a reflection of yourself that is valued so you can see and value yourself too. I like you just the way you are.” (Dan Siegel) ○ Describe emotions vs. solve problems
○ Example: “You feel really angry that it is not warm enough today to wear shorts. You feel mad that you have been waiting so long for Spring to come and it is still not warm enough for you to wear your shorts.”
○ Example: You are scared to go on stage right now. You are feeling afraid of performing and that makes you want to run away. Want a hug?”
● Seeing your child’s behaviors as only the tip of the iceberg ○ underneath the iceberg there are needs, wishes, desires, thoughts and feelings
○ We need to try and see these
● “ACT” approach to setting limits
○ Acknowledge the feeling: “I know you would really like to….” or “I can see you are feeling very….”
○ Communicate the limit: “….but you may not_______… (because…)” or “but other children are not for hitting” or “but the answer is no.”
○ Target an alternative: “You can _______ if you would like” or “What you can do is________.”
● Put yourself in their shoes
Example: You are in a toy store to buy a present for your child’s friend. You remind your child that they will not be getting a present and they melt down. Think about how you would feel if you were at a party with a huge dessert smorgasbord and were told the desserts are for other people not for you. Moreover, what if someone said, “you have plenty of dessert at home.”
● Allow them to be their age
We often forget that our children’s developmental capabilities wax and wane from day to day. Stress can cause children to display more immature behavior and successes can lead to more mature stances.
○ Think of criticism more broadly than you’re used to, as any form of judgmental communication
○ Makes assumptions about “right” or “wrong” aspects of the child’s experience
○ If our responses are intended to quickly fix a situation, we lose the opportunity to engage in contingent or collaborative communication.
○ “you are not the kind of kid who….” or “Cheer up!! Today’s gonna be a great day!” or “Why are you so sad? What can I do to make you feel better?”
A few important reminders:
● Everyone is trying to be their best selves
● Parenting requires selfcompassion
● Everyone wants connection
● When children feel connected to you, they are more likely to follow directions
● Attention is attention whether it is positive or negative
● While our kids look and act a lot like their parents they are NOT you. Treat your children as individuals who are developing their own unique ways of being in this world
● When you find yourself feeling stressed, scared, or lonely reach out for support. As they say on the airplanes, “you must put the oxygen mask on yourself first and then place it on the child.” A stressed parent leads to a stressed child.
● When you are not present enough to attune to the WHOLE of your child’s communication – not just the content or behavior, but the thoughts, feelings, and needs behind it – then your child has a choice. Either you are crazy, or (s)he is; by definition, both cannot be true. As a rule, children will ALWAYS choose themselves as the crazy ones, because the alternative – that the person or people in charge are crazy – is too scary. Children then grow up doubting themselves, feeling lonely, confused about how to navigate relationships and the world around them. A quote to live by:
“When we listen to our child’s signals we can learn more about his state of mind and point of view. Our understanding of our child is of primary importance as we internally process the signals we have received. This internal work of processing also involves our own assessments of the experience. A true collaboration involves the blending of both minds, which gives respect to an understanding of both our own and our child’s experience. If parents only understand their own experience and don’t connect with their child’s experience, they will very likely have difficulty in developing a close and meaningful relationship with their child. On the other hand, if parents only consider their child’s point of view and neglect their own internal experience they will very likely have difficulty in securing boundaries with their child. . . . Healthy relationships require that we make choices that support our children’s need for love and nurturing and create experiences that bring structure to the complex dynamic of the parent child relationship.” Parenting from the Inside Out, p. 90
Parenting from the Inside Out, Dan Siegel
The Whole Brain Child, Dan Siegel
Raising Happiness, Christine Carter
The Everyday Parenting Toolkit, Alan Kazdin