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Yoga and Healing Arts

Who Drives Your Child to a Place of Calm?

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Tea Room Conversation, Roots and Wings Yoga and Healing Arts

Elizabeth Goranson, M.Ed., founder of Stretch What Matters has a background in Special Education, Integrated Movement Therapy, Karma Kids Yoga, and Rhythmic Movement.

Besides her private offerings and teen and kid classes, this month Elizabeth offers a class for parents and caregivers of children with special needs. Contact Elizabeth at (617) 538-2873 or

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Tea Room Conversation with Elizabeth Goranson, M.Ed.

Think about an instance when you had someone drive you to the same location several times.  The trip always felt familiar and it was nice to know that you could sit back and enjoy the ride.  Then one day, the driver invited you to take the wheel for a change - and something strange happened . . . you had absolutely no idea where to go.  Sound familiar?

Now think about you and your child...who is in the driver's seat when she becomes overwhelmed, stressed out, angry? If you answered, "you", than you can assume that your child is not clear on where to go when she is trying to get to a place of calm. Eventually your child may begin to assume that she needs you for directions because you have not shown that you trust her to get herself to the destination safely (self-esteem building opportunity).

Driving directions are similar to the directions located in your brain needed to soothe your self. There is a clear beginning, middle and end. With mindful planning and practice - the destination can always be Pleasantville. If the directions to relaxation are created with your child’s best learning style in mind and traveled on over and over again, voila – your child will have a well-paved relaxation map in his brain. On the other hand, whenever a child is in a state of fear and is offered a new set of directions each time...well, you see where this is going...In fact, the frontal lobe (the part of the brain that stores the relaxation strategy) is the most difficult to reach when feeling upset unless the roads are paved like the Mass Pike.So how do we help children create their own internal navigation system?

Step 1: 
Begin by figuring out how your child learns new information.  For example, does he learn visually (through pictures/written words), auditorily (through spoken language, music), or through touch (physical movement). You know your child better than anyone else, so pick the best avenue (sometimes it’s a combination of all three roads) and get ready to pave the road to peace together.

Step 2: 
Create an easy to follow pathway to relaxation.  I have included one here for you.  This is one that I use over and over again with my own children.  I also practice this one on myself in front of my children (because children do as they see, right?)

Path to relaxation:
1.  Your child becomes upset (he doesn’t want to enter the classroom, he falls down, he makes a transition, he is worried about an upcoming test).

2.  Your child notices his heartbeat (fast rate). Instruct the child how to identify his heartbeat in his body by placing your hand over his hand over his heart.  Identify his heartbeat out loud and paired with the feeling: “You are feeling __________ and your heart is beating fast.”

3.  Invite your child to think of a calming color or choose a color for her. I have found blue to be most commonly chosen.

4.  Instruct and model for your child to breathe the calming color he has chosen in and out of his belly. Teach belly breathing by placing his hand on his belly and watching/feeling his belly grow as he breathes his color in and shrink as he breathes his color out.  For children who have a challenge with breath control, physically guide children to raise their arms on the inhale and lower their arms on the exhale.  Also, performing belly breathing on the floor while lying on one’s back is another great alternative. Continue this breath for 3-10 breaths.

5.  Return to the heart beat and notice it beginning to slow down. If necessary, show the child how to feel her heartbeat in her body slowing down by placing your hand over her hand over her heart.  Then identify her heartbeat out loud.  “You are safe and your heart is slowing down.”

For the Visual Learner: 
Draw an illustrated story of these steps to review and practice with your child.  Make copies of it and carry it with you, hang it in the relaxation space of your home, keep it in your car, etc.

For the Tactile Learner: 
Place your hand over your child’s hand on your child’s heart (notice change in heartbeat throughout calming process).  Same for belly breathing: place your hand over your child’s hand on your child’s belly.  You may also hug your child and allow her to mirror your belly breathing. Their breath will sync with your breath over time.

For the Auditory Learner: 
With a soft, calm and nurturing voice, say something like:  “You’re feeling __________ (name the feeling) and your heart is beating fast.  Breath in the color blue to your belly, breathe out the color blue (make your breath audible).  “Your heartbeat is slowing down.  You are calming your self down.  You are safe and calm.”

Things to keep in mind:

Lastly, keep it simple, keep it consistent and keep it calm. 

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