Breathe Deep. Breathe Evenly. Breathe Often.
As you are all more than aware, we are currently facing a period of unprecedented events. The hard reality of the situation is that we do not know what the next 24hrs, week, month, or year ahead will look like. As adults, this is confronting and scary for most, let alone for our tiniest humans that are aware of the events unfolding around them.
It is more than ok for us ‘big humans’ to be feeling anxious and even scared right now, however in the face of these feelings, we need to remember that our tiny humans are watching our e v e r y m o v e.
We are the tiny human’s compass. We help them navigate through well-travelled waters, calm waters, rough waters, and now it’s time to navigate them through these uncharted waters. It is time for us to rise as caregivers and lead the way, calmly, rationally and in control.
You are the expert of your child, no one else. No one can tell you what, how and when to talk to your child about what is currently occurring around them. Go with your gut and carer instincts on this one. Depending on what you think they can comfortably process, stick with the facts. Don’t embellish and entertain future possibilities because we simply don’t know what the future holds. Stick with the facts and keep them in the present moment.
Be mindful of what you say in front of them. You will be amazed as what tiny human ears can pick up on. Try not to bide into school ground gossip or the Chinese whispers doing the rounds. It is not helpful to you, and it is certainly not helpful for tiny humans.
As a mum, I would love nothing more than to shelter my two tiny humans from what is unfolding around them, but sadly and frustratingly, we cannot. So here are some thoughts and ideas that will hopefully help you navigate these uncharted waters, and be the strong compass that your tiny human needs you to be.
If your tiny human asks you questions about why the supermarket looks empty, or why we have to be more vigilant with washing their hands throughout the day- do not sweep these questions under the rug. Your tiny human is trying to figure out why their world suddenly looks and feels so different, and we need to acknowledge this so they can take ownership of the thoughts and feelings they are having right now. Answer truthfully and in such a way that they can process, but not be left feeling even more anxious.
As mental health professionals, we often say you have to ‘name it to tame it’- encourage your tiny human to name the feelings they are having, and you do the same- have these conversations together as a family.
Yes, the world has been thrown into disarray, and that can leave the big and tiny humans feeling chaotic and stressed. As your child’s compass, you need to help ground them. And one of the key ways you can do this is by trying to keep their routine as normal and structured as possible. Most tiny humans thrive on structure. If you are choosing not to send your child to school, or if your tiny human’s school has closed, this is even more reason to try and strive to maintain a sense of routine in your household. Use visuals or write up the daily routine so that everyone in your household is clear of the plan. Routine is grounding, routine is safe, routine is necessary.
Here at Peninsula Speech Plus, we are committed to supporting you in being able to maintain your child’s routine as much as possible. Please speak to your child’s treating therapist/s if you have any questions at all about how we can help you achieve this.
If your tiny human is anxious on the best of days, please recognise that they will be in a particularly heightened state right now. Tiny humans can smell fear and change. Even if they are too young to understand what is happening right now, their 6th sense will be telling them that there is something not quite right. So if you know that their anxiety will be triggered by seeing the empty shelves at the supermarket, hearing reports on the news or radio, then it is ok to avoid these triggers. Again, you are the expert in your child, go with what you think you need to do to help them best cope during this upheaval of their lives.
Amongst the chaos in the community, find ways to ground yourself within your home. Make your home your sanctuary. Deep and effective breathing is the most reliable way to calm your nervous system when it is in a heightened anxious state.
If you are needing support in engaging your tiny human in deep effective breathing there are some great apps out there…and you may like to use them too.
Guided Breathing with Jacob the Frog: https://jacobthefrog.com/
Breath Easy- Paced Breathing: https://apps.apple.com/au/app/breathe-easy-paced-breathing/id1081000353
And Dr Michael Carr-Greg has recommended a number of online psychology supports for the big and tiny humans to access:
Ecouch – ecouch.anu.edu.au/welcome
This Way Up – thiswayup.org.au
OCD? Not Me! – ocdnotme.com.au
Moodgym – moodgym.com.au
The Brave Program – brave4you.psy.uq.edu.au
And as always, please don’t hesitate to talk to your child’s occupational therapist and/or speech pathologist. We are there to help you navigate these uncharted waters in partnership with you.
Together we can help each other stay grounded, stay connected, and navigate to greener pastures.
Senior Occupational Therapist