When a stranger is losing it

When a stranger is losing it

I’m packing up our tent and the screams from the van opposite are escalating and it’s all sounding just a little bit too aggressive for my liking. I can hear a very distressed child, who sounds quite young and her mother, getting more and more irate and shouting at her. I debate whether to go over. One of my friends says leave them to it, the other says… go help them! I have a policy of intervening in fraught situations between parents and their kids if I’m feeling resourced enough, but as I approach this angry woman and her hysterical child, I’m actually a bit frightened that she might attack me.   As she sees me she turns to say (in a back-off kinda way) “It’s alright she has autism and ADHD. This is normal.” I can see I’ve got her defences up. I make my body language as unthreatening as I can. “It’s ok I’m a mum, I got one like this. Just wanted to see if you needed some support.” “Are you coming to take her off me?” I shrug and smile “Sure if that’s what you want me to do” “Don’t worry, we’re fine, she’s like this every day” Except she doesn’t look at all fine. She looks overwhelmed and furious and now she feels like she’s done something wrong. “I just wondered if I could listen for 5 minutes.” When she realises I mean listen to her, her expression goes from hurt/defensive (‘why would it be ME that needs listening?’) to incredulously delighted (‘Goodness… someone is willing to listen to ME?!’) She edges out of...
Fear (published in JUNO winter edition)

Fear (published in JUNO winter edition)

FEAR_Issue_52   There is an insidious undercurrent that can seep, unbeknownst to us, into our children’s hearts, affecting their behaviour and their confidence. It can alter their thinking, posture and shake their enjoyment of life and bigness in the world.   When the baby is constantly crying and squirming, refusing to nap more than 40 minutes a day. When our toddler won’t let us out of sight, or when children are picky with their food. When siblings become aggressive, a child is clingy or passive, or needs a lengthy bedtime routine to be able to fall asleep, we assume these are typical kid things. But what do these seemingly unrelated behaviours have in common?   Fear.   Fear can accumulate in good children, who have good parents. It weighs on them and causes their world and the opportunities available to them to become restricted. It prevents them from feeling relaxed enough to eat or sleep effortlessly. Fear makes a short separation from mummy feel life threatening. It signals such desperate alarm in challenging situations that they are prone to strike out or bite or lose bladder control. It drives them to answer back or appear defiant as a defence. Fear creates anxiety, restlessness and rigid or compulsive behaviours. Fear causes some children to quietly retreat from things they love. The good news is we can help our children recover from fear!   It is guaranteed for children to experience frightening situations, no matter how well we love and care for them. It’s certainly no-one’s fault. We don’t always know when fear set in. It may have been during a...
It takes a village…do you have one yet?

It takes a village…do you have one yet?

If you are based in Frome you are already part of one of the most cutting edge towns in the UK. Last week George Monbiot reported on revolutionary community measures against isolation that are cutting the rates of hospital admissions in this progressive town.  Frome is known for its community. You may be enjoying the benefits of this already. Or – and especially if you have young children – you may be feeling more isolated than ever. Why is community so important? And what role does it REALLY play in raising healthy kids? As humans, we are such social creatures that our brains don’t actually exist as individuals. Unbeknownst to our conscious awareness, our brains are constantly searching out ways syncing, moulding, adapting, and mirroring our brains with those around us. We do this spontaneously, unconsciously and completely naturally – it’s part of our in-build survival mechanisms.   It’s an attempt to form and participate in a ‘hive mind’ – something greater than each of us.  We are group animals; built to survive, thrive – and raise children – in a tribe. So a good portion of our energy and nervous system activity is allocated to constantly assessing how well we belong, how socially acceptable we are. And yet:  if you are a parent you might be experiencing one of the most isolated phases of your life. So many of us are living geographically far (or estranged) from our parents. If a couple is going to break up, the most likely time is within the first year of our child’s life. And even if we do stay together, with the pressures of nuclear...
20 Things To Say To Your Child Instead Of “Don’t Cry”

20 Things To Say To Your Child Instead Of “Don’t Cry”

What if every time your child cries or tantrums, they are actually doing something highly worthwhile? We don’t always appreciate it when our children begin to cry, but what they are actually doing is making use of the body’s innate recovery system. When we get hurt, physically or emotionally, instead of storing it all up in our bodies as tension, we can make use of crying, laughter, raging or trembling. This is how the body processes and releases feelings. Most of us don’t do this often, having being told “Don’t cry” since we were small, but our children still have their recovery system intact. The best news is that all of our children’s difficult or ‘off track’ behaviour is driven by emotion and when they get to use your good, warm attention to dump out these feelings, you get your angel back. By actively encouraging our children to cry when they need to, they not only get to shed hurt feelings, they end up feeling more connected to us as well. The way we listen can either shut feelings down, or help children to feel what they are feeling more fully. Here are things you can say to listen well. General reassuring phrases: 1. I’m right here 2. I see how upset you are 3. I’m sorry this is hard, Love 4. I’ll be with you while you are upset 5. I’m not going anywhere 6. You are safe 7. There’s nothing more important than being with you right now 8. I’m sorry… you lost your lamby/your friend said that/you dropped your ice cream 9. I hear you Sweetheart...

How telling your story can help you recover from a difficult birth (Practicing Midwife July 2016)

When women are impacted by birth trauma it can stay with them for many years, influencing their mental health and sense of self. The work of Mary Main et al (2005) in their Adult Attachment Interview demonstrated that a child’s attachment status can be predicted with 85% accuracy by their mother’s state of mind. It is therefore vital that mothers be supported towards emotional health when their wellbeing has such a profound significance for the next generation. This article will look at the what we have learned from running workshops for postpartum mothers, using an approach we call ‘After Birth’ and how midwives might bring elements of it into their practice. We will always be grateful for the day we sat together at Binnie’s dinning table, drinking tea and co-creating After Birth, honouring and resolving the birth of your baby. Both of us had worked (Binnie for many years) with women who wanted to process their birth trauma on a 1:1 basis, but we were inspired by the concept of women coming together to support each other to release the feelings they had been carrying and being able to see their experiences in a new light. We created a structure that allows women to share their story in an environment of deep listening and total acceptance, by encouraging them to notice specific aspects of their story related to personal power, connection and fear. The workshop also includes psychospiritual processing work and visualisation and other techniques from hypnotherapy. Our experience has been that through this process, women have been able to release emotion, appreciate a new perspective and come away...

Receiving Love (JUNO Magazine Spring 2016)

Roma Norriss reflects on the basis for an ecstatic birth I’m all about receiving love when it comes to birth. Receiving love is a bold, rebellious act; as it counters deep-rooted feelings of not receiving enough during birth and infancy. Receiving all the love and support that is there for us, is what allows us to step out of any place that is victimised by the process and choose to be present and powerful instead. This is not an easy task; it goes against the very grain of our conditioning. Last week a mother did a beautiful thing. She let me love her so fully that she literally melted into my body as she laboured. She absorbed the support and safety I could offer and said the only thing she was aware of throughout the process was her dear husband and I. Amazingly, she remained oblivious to the chaos and fear emanating from the paramedics and midwives that piled into the bedroom. Despite being commanded many times to lie on her back, her insurgent body somehow neglected to take heed and she persisted, warrior-like, leaning into me or kneeling at times and relishing the tight hold I had on her pelvis. She filtered out all the support she didn’t need and instead spaciously focused on receiving what was safe and nourishing. It was an inspiration to see. Preparing to receive is a fundamental and unacknowledged part of birth preparation. If we learn to release blocks to letting others in, we can let go and surrender to the process and allow ourselves to be held. Binnie A. Dansby, pioneer of...