Google+ Authentic Parenting: Little Helpers

Friday, December 30, 2011

Little Helpers

Written by Sima

This is the first post in my new holistic healing/natural health series, where we explore alternatives to mainstream healthcare and find new ways for you to care for yourself. If you would like to submit a post to this series, contact me (mamapoekie at yahoo dot com).

As adults we see babies coming into the world helpless and dependent on other people. Makes sense right? They pretty much eat, sleep and poop under the care of their family. We don’t always make the connection that while we nurture babies they nurture and take care of us in their own way. Under stressful circumstances we can understand how having someone else to care for would keep us from harming ourselves. One of my good friends speaks about her struggles, but thoughts of her son would always help her deal with them.

Outside of that most day to day interactions involve us telling a child what he should or shouldn’t do rather than taking the time to be sensitive to his emotional needs rather than just the physical. My nephew is a classical example of this. While he doesn’t like to eat he’s perfectly healthy, though his mom often tries to force feed him much to his dismay. I completely understand parents and grandparents do their best to raise a child in a comfortable, loving home, but at the same time coming down to a child’s level can yield a lot of insight for everyone.

Lately I’ve been working with families that have an ill child usually meaning he/she has had a serious procedure such as cancer treatment, vital organ damage or organ transplants. Understandably parents are under a lot of stress and often have to hire help to care for the siblings of the sick child or have an additional family come to help, so that they can concentrate on doing what they can for the child in the hospital. Siblings of a sick child have interesting stored feelings. In many cases they are concerned about their parents, especially if the parents aren’t eating or sleeping in front of them. Automatically, they will either worry about the parents or take on their parents’ stress as a way to protect them from harm.

Some children have a tough time letting go of these feelings, because they think if they don’t hold onto some of the stress it’ll go back to hurt their parents. One child kept repeating “Daddy’s scared”, but after working with her there was a noticeable difference in her behavior and speech the next day. For children in their teens or tweens it’s not surprising they could feel this way, but in the cases mentioned the children were under 5. I talk to their caregivers about being aware of the messages they are sending to the children. Sometimes the simple act of having dinner together or sharing a bedtime story will be enough to alleviate a child’s worry.

Older children often have a lot of responsibility especially if they are the oldest, because it naturally falls to them to look after their younger siblings. In many ways they are caught in between being an adult and a child. On one hand they have to be grown up to help their parents with domestic duties including childcare, but on the other hand they are still children needing attention. These two realities often come into conflict, which causes unspoken issues within the child including guilt or bitterness that can last into adulthood if they aren’t properly acknowledged. Parents automatically assume older children know how important they are, but by taking an extra few minutes to say, “Thank you for helping us take care of the family” dissolves the internal conflict. Now they know beyond a shadow of a doubt that their contributions are valuable and that someone understands what they experience.

Working with the sick kids themselves is often insightful. When they have younger siblings they will often feel responsible for taking attention away from them. As expected they also are concerned about going back to school after a long absence and will miss the friends they have made while they were ill. One little guy had just turned two and had had several heart surgeries. The memories that he held onto were those of the doctors and nurses who first operated on him when he was months old. He was looking forward to playing with his older brother when he finally was able to go home. Curiously, none of the sick kids I worked with had any stored emotions about their parents.

How do I get all this information? As a Body Talk therapist, specializing in children, most of the work I do involves releasing stored emotions and memories from the bodies of children or adults. I do this by using a combination of touch and intuition. When I feel a certain part of the body I observe what emotions and memories are causing problems usually in the form of pain or stiffness. This is a great way to treat children because they often don’t have the vocabulary to express what’s bothering them. I prefer to have a parent or caregiver present, because she offers a lot of insight on the different feelings or events that surface.

Recently, I gave up my clinical practice in favor of volunteering once/month at the Ronald Mc Donald House in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada to keep my skills up as I focused on other projects. I chose this particular charity, because my brother was ill when we were growing up. Everyone I treat from siblings, to parents, to the sick child represents someone from my past, whether it’s me, my parents or my siblings. Parents will often have a treatment first then plop their children on the table, which speaks volumes about their confidence in the therapy. For the children, they come back for second treatments and volunteer their friends.

From spending time with children I’ve learned so much from them that I can pass onto their care givers to make stressful situations a little bit easier for everyone. Parents enjoy the Body Talk treatments as well, though while many people end up teary they appreciate the fact someone understands what they feel without having to speak openly about it. The family becomes stronger as a unit and House benefits from having at least a few people more relaxed.

About the author:

Sima and Avi
Sima Chowdhury helps families manage stressful periods in life using a holistic modality called Body Talk. She regularly volunteers at Ronald Mc Donald House Children's charities treating staff, parents, siblings and sick children. Recently, she's been published in the Canadian anthology Inkspots. When she's not writing, she spends time with her nephew, Avi.


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