The Importance of Calm

Many people react differently when faced with an emergency or crisis. When it is your own precious child who is involved, that reaction is intensified.

This fall, while visiting my parents farm, our 4 year old daughter was stung by a wasp for the very first time. I am not the type to fuss and muss, and so after checking quickly for a stinger and applying ice I fully expected to be able to return to getting our turkey dinner on the table. Ah, the best laid plans…

Within ten minutes, we found ourselves immersed in a drama involving a rapidly swelling child (think Quasimodo with full body hives!), a remote country location -the bane of ambulance drivers everywhere- and a 7 hour hospital stay.

Scary? Yes. The time to fall to pieces? Most absolutely not. The greatest gift we can give our children in any urgent, scary or distressing situation is our own state of calm. Being flooded by stress hormones can even exacerbate symptoms and it can take days for a small child to process them out of their system. How could my daughter control her breathing if I did not control mine? How could she be brave if I wasn’t brave and 100% confident in her own bravery? How could I think objectively and make decisions if my mind was distracted by panic? 

The trick is “How?”. How do you stay calm in moments like these? I suppose it is different for everyone, but the best advice I can give is to start now. Prepare yourself mentally and exercise your gift of calm in normal day to day situations. Practice it in moments of ordinary frustration or with everyday illnesses. Make a concentrated effort to guard your emotions and project the emotional state that you desire for your child at that time*.

Children are for the most part mirrors of our own emotional states. While they do have their own, independent spectrum of emotions we are the emotional ‘alphas’ in their lives; their emotions are vulnerable and highly susceptible to influence. This is particularly true in infants, as they are often in close physical contact with us and are affected by our involuntary functions as well, such as heart rate and respiration. What a scary thought when we think of the number of times in a day that we are stressed or frustrated and at our wit’s end! No need to dismay though, because the flip side is also true… when we exert an influence of calm it can have an equally dramatic effect.

One key factor in achieving a state of calm, is confidence. The need to ‘do’ something is overwhelming, so don’t underestimate how effective it is as a tool. A well stocked, child friendly First Aid kit like the me4kidz Medibag will certainly keep you prepared. Or for the common cold or flu, a soothing ritual of a calming bath soak, a mentholated chest rub and some lullabies in front of a humidifier can work wonders. Whether it is administering some ointment and a bandage, a therapeutic bath or chest balm for a sick child, or simply breathing and singing with a frightened/injured mite, the act of ‘doing’ can be reassuring to everyone. Keep it simple, calm and loving and you will be surprised by how quickly everyone (yourself included) feels better.

 

 

*It is always important to actively tune in to what your child is feeling and use reflective listening. The intention is not a forcible override of their feelings but to model for them the next step in emotional state.

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