Written by Marcy Axness, PhD
This is the fourth 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).
In my years of coaching and counseling parents-in-progress, a unique and little-known tool has proved incredibly useful: sleep talking. It is yet another way in which to practice Parenting for Peace’s #1 Principle – Presence. Speaking to your child while he or she is sleeping is a way to be present to your child in a powerful way, and to speak directly to the unconscious, bypassing whatever protective deflection your waking child might have toward the words of acknowledgement and healing you want to share.
Philipino pediatrician Rhodora Diaz was inspired to develop this as a “last resort” for two young rebellious, hostile young patients who had one thing in common: they had both been unwanted conceptions, and both mothers had resented their pregnancies.
- Statement of love
- Statement of the problem
- Interpretation / proposal for a solution
- Statement of love & commitment (closing statement)
Dr. Diaz suggests limiting the Sleep Talk session to five or ten minutes. She has found that the best time for a session seems to be in the early morning, before the child wakes up (which is a deep sleep).
I work with clients to help zero in on what they might “sleep talk” about with their child. I have found with many parents in my practice that previously unrecognized traumas during infancy, birth, pregnancy and even conception often prove to be avenues for discovering clues to troubling “inexplicable” behavior or developmental issues. These often serve as key points to be addressed through sleep talking. So that is Step One – thoughtfully and intuitively zeroing in on these kinds of events or experiences that may have planted the seed for these later issues.
Step Two is to prepare at least an outline of the main points you will touch upon in each of Dr. Diaz’ four parts of sleep talking. Here is just one “script” example from a parent in my practice. (Note Dr. Diaz’ four elements – which are Steps Four through Seven of my adapted protocol):
James, you are our precious boy and we love you so much… and we’re so proud and happy to be your parents… and that you came to be our son.
We notice that you’re sometimes very dreamy and you’re not quite present with us... like you’re up flying in the clouds. Sometimes what happens is that we get impatient or frustrated trying to reach you... and then that creates a separation between us. We would like to bring you back to earth, and help you really be here, and feel comfortable with us here.
When you first came to us, we hadn’t expected you, and so we were surprised. We were really happy you were coming, but we realized we had to make a lot of changes to get ready for you... and so there was some chaos and crazy times and some really hard work we had to do. So we’re thinking that might have made you feel unsure about whether or not you really belonged here with us. Maybe you got the idea that if you really came to us it would cause too much trouble.
We want you to know that we’re so happy you’re here, and all the changes we made in preparing the way for you were wonderful changes. You’ve enriched our lives so much, and we love you and want you to be fully here with us, all the way, with your entire being. We look forward to all our happy years with you, all of us growing together.
So what is the missing Step Three? Sitting with the material you plan to discuss with your child long enough to process out any “emotional overload.” As I learned from the brilliant psychiatrist Myriam who works with babies in a Parisian neonatal intensive care unit – effecting miraculous healings by simply speaking their (usually difficult) prenatal or birth stories to them – it is more effective when we can speak with words that are straightforward and unclouded by too much sentiment or emotionality.
To read more about this gentle, compassionate and useful technique, visit Dr. Diaz’ site at whilechildrensleep.homestead.com.
About the author
A member of Mothering magazine’s online expert panel, and a popular international speaker, Marcy Axness, PhD, is a professor of prenatal development, and she also has a private practice coaching parents-in-progress. She provides training for childcare, adoption, education, and mental health professionals about the latest findings in the science of human thriving, and is the author of a new book that distills that research: Parenting for Peace: Raising the Next Generation of Peacemakers. She invites you to join her at www.marcyaxness.com.