Monday, November 15, 2010

Counting and Comfort

Lately I've been counting a lot and not just to make sure I have all my kids with me.  Truthfully it started a few years ago with Samuel and my earnest desire to help him calm down when he needed help, though in doing so I've found an incredible parenting tool.  It isn't difficult or strange but it just isn't one I've really ever thought of sharing, so I thought I'd share it now.

One of the hardest thing that parents have to deal with is staying calm when our children aren't.  I know that when my babies are crying and I don't know why my heart starts breaking, I want to know what is wrong, I want to comfort and fix the problem.  Yet when they're crying so hard you can't understand a word their saying and you feel the frustration filling you there is something you can do, and it's simple...count.

Yes.  It is amazing how the simple act of audibly counting can not only cool my frustration, open my mind to what is most important, comforting a hurting child.  Some hurts we can't fix as parents, those are the hardest, some can but take a little ingenuity and time.  However, in order to get to the bottom of the problem we first have to calm the child.

I have found this to work many different ways.  Today for example, Elsa hurt herself in speech therapy and I was there when she came running to me for comfort.  Now I knew what had happened, but I didn't know how badly she was hurt yet I knew the worst thing to do was to jump in an start accessing how badly she was injured because what she needed most was comfort.  So as she clung to me, tears streaming down her cheeks I counted. One- then took an nice breath, Two- another breath, Three- I could tell the worst was over, Four- the tears slowed, Five- her therapist visually saw her calm, Six- I could feel her trying to match her breathing with mine, Seven- her cries were now whimpers, Eight- Tears almost gone, Nine- she squeezed me just a little tighter, Ten- she was all better and ready to go back to her therapy.

In situations where my children get hurt, I have found that counting helps them.  I can't spout the science behind the reasons why it works, just that it works for me.  Yet with Lincoln I find myself counting a lot too.  He struggles so much to deal with a world of people and emotions that he just doesn't understand.  I wonder sometimes if he feels like he's in culture shock all the time.  Often when he's tired, sick or just having a run of the mill bad day I find he tends to easily fall into the trap of tantrums and is unable to calm himself.  So I count, though I do encourage him to count with me too.  I find that the stress is relieved from me in his fuss and he finds comfort in the slow, rhythmic beat of my counting. 

This is by no means an absolute in the world of parenting.  I'm sure that many will try this and it will fail miserably for them.  However, for our family it works and if this knowledge helps just one other family it was totally worth sharing.  Despite having 5 children I am by no means an expert, many days I just barely make it through.  So in knowing that someone might be struggling with a fussy baby, a child with autism, or simply needs one more tool in that ever growing tool box for helping a distraught child I thought I would share.  Because most times the only thing our children really needed was to know that we cared enough to stop and comfort them in their distress.


May you all have a great week!

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