“I see you, I hear you, I feel you!”
Two weeks ago, my oldest son was preparing for a new session of hip hop classes to officially begin! He was just about bursting at the seams with joy and excitement as he could not wait to get back to the hard beats and sweet jams he had come to love in his previous session of enjoyment.
You see, his last session of dancing was a huge, big deal! Being on the Autism Spectrum, my boy trying hip hop was a new and exciting physical, mental, emotional and social experience for the whole family. My husband and I had to become attuned alongside our son to supporting him in a new space and learning environment, with a new teacher, new friends and style of movement that was, up to that point, completely foreign to our boy. Just as he was learning how to navigate this new adventure, so were we, ever present by his side!
I waited excitedly in the lobby for my precious boy to come out of the class to show me all the new awesome moves he had learned that night. But upon the door opening, I wasn’t met with awesome moves or the latest and greatest steps. Instead my son’s face was red, he shoulders and back were hunched, as if he just received a crushing blow to the heart and tears were about to overflow from his blue eyes.
I asked, “Honey, what’s going on?” He quietly whispered, “Something happened, I need to talk to you now.” Wrapping my son in his warm winter coat, I found his eyes and whispered back, “I see you, I hear you, I feel you. Let’s go talk.”
Proud Ninja Parents, nothing cuts through the heart of a mom or dad quite like seeing your child in pain. Whether that pain is physical, mental or emotional, seeing your baby in a place and space of wrestling with the hard and heavy of life is never easy.
But how can we as parents support our children when they are experiencing deep, emotional responses? Further, how do we as SKILLZ Strong Instructors and Pediatric Ninja Specialists help children grow in their ability to self-regulate when moments test them most? Let’s explore!
- I see you.
When children shift in spirit from a happy, carefree space to “Something is wrong,” there are definite cues in body language, tone of voice, behavior that alert us both as parents and instructors that something has changed and it’s time to support, nurture and advocate for their voice to be heard.
Finding a child’s eyes who is experiencing a heightened emotional response goes a long way in first and foremost connecting with them in their time of need. Even as adults, there is something truly special and comforting about receiving the validation of being seen in a moment of distress, disequilibrium and struggle.
When parents and instructors come alongside a child in their hurt and validate the state of emotion they are in, it gives reassurance and encouragement to the child in that moment that we have their back and they will not have to figure out what has happened on their own.
- I hear you.
Coming down to a child’s eye level, being with them in the place and space they find themselves in is powerful when taking the intentional and necessary step of understanding what has ignited the emotional response from their perspective.
Listening goes far beyond the words a child is expressing. As their vocabulary develops, it certainly becomes easier with age and time to decipher all of the clues we are given when heightened states of emotional expression arise. Truly listening to the body language of the child as well as considering the factors of what happened within the surroundings are all pieces of a puzzle that can help to unlock the root of the struggle.
Especially in moments of competition where the surge of adrenaline is at its peak, you’ll often see our instructors take a knee, getting down to a child’s level to find their eyes, hear their truth and aid them in working through their big feelings when experiencing a loss of the game for example. The ability to cope with and process emotions takes practice and patience. Remaining consistent in this practice, being calm and levelheaded is a must! Remember, being the parent or the instructor a child needs us to be requires us remaining grounded and centered, not joining in the heightened emotional response.
- I feel you.
Proud Ninja Parents, you know your child best. Period. We as instructors have the privilege of coming into your family’s world when you become a part of our tribe, not the other way around.
As a Childhood Development Center, we are committed to the support, nurturing and guidance of the whole child. Providing our students in moments of distress real life support with tools of success to:
- Come back to breath
- Come back to center
- Process the events that lead to the distress
- Hold space until such time regulation is achieved
This all contributes to giving you and your child the support you deserve. Because just as my son experienced being seen, heard and held in the space he found himself in with the help of his mama, so too do each and every one of our students receive the same level of care, compassion and love. For how they are seen and supported in their moment of struggle, so too will they in turn learn to be there for those they love in their time of need.
About the Author
Meg Klettke is the proud owner alongside her husband, Alex of Family Strong Sussex, a SKILLZ Lifetime Gold studio in Southeastern Wisconsin. With a background in traditional and alternative therapeutics, Meg is an active advocate for today’s youth. Her passion for supporting and nurturing the whole child resonates through all she does as a Proud Ninja Mom of two boys with special needs, Certified Pediatric Ninja Specialist and Content Creator for SKILLZ Worldwide