Children pick up on the energy of the adults in their life. The level of activation in our nervous system has a profound physiological effect on them. It matters that we take care of ourselves in the moment a child is struggling before us, that we ground, and breathe, and notice (see previous blog). It also matters how we are taking care of ourselves at every other moment. Here are 3 more important choices we need to make in order to heal a child:

1. Make better choices: When we notice the impact on our nervous system of our daily habits, we can begin to make better choices. Our focus needs to be on creating in us a more relaxed, flexible state of well-being that comes from doing all the things that lower our stress hormones (cortisol), heart rate, and blood pressure. Examples of what the neuroscience points to that can have this positive effect on us include more sleep, less caffeine and sugar, more deep, long experiences of nature, healthy foods, more water, as well as slowing down, scheduling less, and turning off the phone, television, and computer.

2. Be still: Have quiet, meditative time that helps you to notice the impact of your state of mind on your body. For example, we now know from the neuroscience that thinking about old hurts increases the symptoms of stress, yet simply imagining forgiving transgressions decreases those same symptoms. Anger and sadness can be replaced by feelings of relief and joy when we choose to forgive. When we are still, and imagine receiving love, forgiveness, and compassion from ourselves and others, we are able to notice the experience of these feelings of relief and joy in our bodies, and that is what it takes to heal ourselves as well as a child.

3. Practice compassion: Start with compassion for you. We are human, flesh and bone. That means we don’t get to be perfect. When we appreciate where we have come from, all we’ve been through, and that we have done the best we can given our age at the time, and the resources that were available or unavailable to us, we can forgive and feel compassion for ourselves. When we practice compassion for ourselves, it becomes second nature to want to understand the stories of others so that we can have compassion for them as well. Healing children requires compassion, but we can’t give to them what we haven’t experienced ourselves.