A Step-By-Step Guide To Helping Your Child,
By Tuning Into Their Non-Verbal Behavior
* Click here to Tune in to Yourself first with Alé Duarte’s guided somatic meditation
This is a guide to help you sit down with your child, and tune in to where they are, and what they are feeling. Follow these simple steps to hear what worries your child may have at the moment, and then help them to track any somatic, or bodily, sensations that accompany these feelings. I will teach you to guide your child through these sensations, and help them to learn positive ways to regulate themselves.
This is an excellent way to re-connect with your child, whatever their age. If your child is not accustomed to such connections, there may be some resistance, and they may try to avoid the conversation. Allow this, and be patient. Try shorter stints, gradually getting longer. As you re-connect, you will begin to see what your child is saying both through their verbal and non-verbal behavior.
I have provided instructions below, as well as a video clip explaining some more of the ideas. I recommend that you read through first, then have a look at the video on the right of the page. This will prepare you to to really Tune in to Your Child.
Please like and share the video if you find the tips useful. I’d also love to here your comments on firstname.lastname@example.org. Send me an email, and let me know what you think.
Getting Ready to Really Help Your Child
Establish a time frame for your conversation
(15-20 minutes is ideal)
- Setting a time will help them perceive that there is a beginning, middle, and end for them to tell their story
- Start with 5 minutes and increase gradually, connecting at least once a day (100% quality attention will be immediately and positively responded to by your child
Be present and confident,
while maintaining your playfulness
- Your child finds trust and positivity in your presence
- Come down and speak to your child at their level. Your gentle presence will help to settle any inner turbulence they are feeling.
- Your physiological state is a mirror for your child’s. This is why it is so important we ground ourselves first.
Use calm and gentle gestures
- Notice the way you speak, and how you move your body.
- Speaking very fast, or rapid hand movements, may trigger anxiety in hyperactive children or a sense of disconnection with quiet, inhibited children, who may get lost.
- If your tendency is to speak too slowly, the opposite will happen.
Be aware of your non-verbal behavior
- Children primarily read non-verbal cues, especially facial expressions.
- Incongruences between what you say verbally and what you express non-verbally will create confusion.
- This confusion can lead the child to mistrust their own internal cues and nervous system.
Tune in to Your Child
Sit down with your child
- Remember to ground yourself first
- Ask your child to talk about any feelings of fear they may have
- Have patience, allowing time if your child is initially reluctant to participate
Allow them to speak freely
- Allow them to express themselves whatever way they choose – words, play, drawing, etc
- Listen attentively, showing your non-judgmental presence
- Keep the conversation simple, maintaining a playful tone
Avoid negating fears
- Your child’s fears are real, and need to be acknowledged
- Listen and take things in
- Avoid the temptation to “fix” every problem and concern they have
- Start by sharing your own feelings, if your child has difficulty verbalizing
- Let them know where you found solutions, in an age appropriate way
Tune in to sensations
- Start by asking what is happening inside their body when they think of these fears
- Offer prompts, like directing their attention to what they feel in their head / belly / chest
- Ask them to describe the sensation: what it looks like, what shape it is
- They may report trembling legs, tight chest, fluttering belly
- Helping your child to become aware of bodily sensations assists in a natural process called self-regulation, which helps bring them out of their fears, and back into balance.
- Asking your child to notice their sensations allows time for the body and mind to integrate
Tune in to Safety
- As parent, you are your child’s primary source of safety
- Now that we have identified the sensations that accompany the fear, now we will bring their awareness to more positive sensations and feelings
- Ask questions, like “When you know I’m here playing with you / sitting here with you, what sensations do you have in your body?”
- You may need to be specific – “What sensations do you have in your head/belly/chest?”
- Emphasize safety, “What feels good in your body when I am here, keeping you safe?”
- Notice the changes from when they thought about their fears and now, as they think about their safety with you.
- Explore whether initial sensations have changed.
- It is very important to help the child to settle back into their environment following the exercise.
- Bring their attention to the room around them.
- Get them to focus their attention on an object that catches their eye, noting color, shape, textures. This bring your child’s attention back out into their external surroundings.
- Once finished, give your child space and time to play freely, run, sleep, go to bathroom, get a drink of water, etc
- Repeat the exercise on a daily basis.
- You should note a decrease in feelings of fear as time progresses.