Scary Therapy

“Deep breaths, regulate, feel your feet on the ground, keep breathing,” went my inner dialogue as I sat there shocked and horrified.  “This is therapy?” a little voice in my head kept asking, “Where is the compassion, the attunement, the healing?” I worked hard to stay regulated and to keep from bolting out of the room; but every cell in my body held the knowledge that this video I was watching, of a prominent play therapist working with a young adopted child, was fundamentally wrong. The child crying and begging for the therapist to “stop it!” and the therapist continuing to impose her jarring interventions, completely disregarding the 3-year old’s desperate pleas. It was horrifying. For a young child who has experienced the level of disempowerment and helplessness that inherently go along with trauma, an experience like this (with an adult she is told is safe and trustworthy) can have detrimental effects and risks.images-1

Psychotherapy and psychology have the capacity to help people deeply heal and reach their highest potential. But there is also the possibility of doing harm and re-traumatizing individuals in the name of therapy. This can happen with an unaware therapist who is not doing his/her own growth work, but allowing his/her “stuff” to cloud the relationship with the client and the client’s relationship with him/herself. Right here in Colorado there have been cases of children who have been killed in practices related to Attachment Therapy, through techniques such as “holding”, “re-birthing”, “rage reduction therapy” and others. I am by no means trying to fear-monger here and these cases are incredibly rare anomalies. But they reflect a desperation and helplessness that families of traumatized children feel and an egoic, pathological approach on the part of some practitioners.

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Carl Rogers, founder of humanistic psychology

I am writing this because I feel a need to share with my readers the tremendous importance of finding a therapist whose approach and core values are aligned with a child’s fundamental needs for love, understanding, attunement, empathy and respect.  And sometimes this is not the most experienced therapist or the therapist with the most degrees or certificates. I know many therapists in their first five years of private practice who do absolutely brilliant work and have a deep, essential understanding of human psychology and behavior. And, as in the workshop I sat through this weekend, there are therapists with years of experience under their belt who suffer from compassion fatigue and project their repressed emotions onto their clients. Therapy is about a relationship that is based in empathy, compassion, openness and positive regard. Techniques or approaches that shame or belittle an individual and do not value his/her sense of self are probably not going to have a sustainable positive impact.

When choosing a therapist for your child, it is vital to trust your intuition and to ask questions. If you are wondering about changes you see in your child’s behavior, techniques the therapist may be using, how you can support the therapeutic process, or anything else simply ask your therapist. And if your therapist is not able or willing to consult with parents and explain his/her approach, it’s probably not the therapist for you. While resistance is a normal part of the therapeutic process and children don’t always come eagerly (particularly when working on some difficult material), a good therapist is able to distinguish between resistance and re-traumatization. The former can be worked through, the latter can be very risky for a child.

images-2The majority of psychotherapists, counselors and psychologists working in the field today are good practitioners: well-trained, knowledgeable, empathic and genuinely caring for the well-being of their clients. Therapy is a powerful tool that can change lives for the better and can allow children to heal from stress or trauma and to live happier, more balanced lives. I believe so strongly in the power of the work I do. It is truly amazing. And I want to encourage families in search of a therapist to do their research and ensure that the therapist they choose is practicing with integrity and openness.

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Helping Children Through Stressful Experiences and How Play Therapy Can Help

Play Therapy: Trauma, Stress and Dysregulation

Often I am asked by curious, perhaps sometimes skeptical parents, what Play Therapy is and how it will help their child be calmer, more resilient, more mentally healthy. Play Therapy is the preferred approach in working with children, speaking to kids in their language of choice. Each model of Play Therapy has something unique to offer and can be beneficial in its own way; however, when it comes to working with children’s stress, trauma and their emotional (and therefore behavioral) dys-regulation, it is critical to have a Play Therapist who understands the biological mechanisms of stress and its impact on the developing nervous system.

Leading trauma author and researcher Dr. Peter Levine says, “Trauma happens when any experience stuns us like a bolt out of the blue; it overwhelms us, leaving us altered and disconnected from our bodies. Any coping mechanisms we may have had are undermined, and we feel utterly helpless and hopeless,” (from Trauma Through A Child’s Eyes by Peter A. Levine and Maggie Kline) The flight/fight/freeze response in our brain has been activated in response to a perceived threat, neurochemicals and stress hormones are released signaling to the brain and body to either mobilize (fight/flight) or to “play dead” (freeze) and the nervous system is flooded with information. When the danger has surpassed, if we are not able to discharge the flood of nervous system energy and integrate the experience, it will likely be stored in the nervous system and the body as trauma and can be debilitating to the life of the individual, particularly to children.

How Can We Help Children Move Through A Traumatic Experience

Integration refers to the linking of different parts of the brain in order to help them function well together. Trauma is primarily a function of the brain’s right hemisphere, which is more closely associated with the lower, or more primitive parts of the brain. In fact, our fight/flight/freeze response is governed by our brainstem, the very back of the brain close to where the back of your head meets your neck. In order to heal from trauma and integrate an experience, we must create connections between the sensory information that is stored in the right hemisphere (the imprint of the traumatic experience) and the rest of the brain, particularly the left hemisphere and the pre-frontal cortex (the area behind your forehead responsible for more sophisticated functions such as rational thought, sequencing of events, empathy and intuition, etc.)

Now that you know a bit about the biology of stress and trauma, what can you do in the aftermath of a frightening event to help a child calm his/her nervous system and ultimately to integrate the experience? Here are some pointers:

  • Use the oxygen mask philosophy: attend to your own state of regulation and do what you need to do to regulate: deep breaths, feel into your body, shake your hands out, feel your feet on the ground, say a calming phrase to yourself (such as, I am ok).
  • Attend to your child’s basic needs first—safety, human touch (rubbing his back, holding her hand), nourishment (a glass of water), rest.
  • Maintain an authentic attitude of empathy and compassion. Even if your child was in the wrong in some way (i.e. made a mistake and fell off his bike), now is not the time to discuss this. Let him know he is safe now, that you are here, that you’ll talk about the details of what happened later and that now is the time for him to just get safe and calm himself.
  • Repeatedly orient your child back to his/her body. Ask her to feel her feet on the ground. Tell her to let you know where it hurts or what it feels like right now. If she has a specific sensation, ask her for more detail about this. Does it have a color, a size, a shape? As humans, one of our coping mechanisms during trauma is to dissociate or “check out”. One way to keep the trauma from developing into Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is to interrupt this dissociation by “getting back in the body”.
  • Crying, trembling, shaking and movement are normal and healthy once the shock of a traumatic experience has worn off. Allow this to happen naturally and stay present with your child while he/she releases these waves (this is energy that has built up in the nervous system as a result of the frightening experience and it needs to be discharged). Assure your child that this is normal and it’s ok to cry or shake.
  • When the child is calmed again, has rested and had his/her basic needs tended to, now is the time to talk about and integrate the experience. This is the time in which parents can ask questions and allow the child to tell his/her story. Draw a storybook or comic describing his memory of the experience, focusing on how it felt for him/her. This allows integration between the two hemispheres of the brain and can lead to greater resilience and healing from the experience.

 

When To Consult a Professional Play Therapist

There are times when we are not able to fully help our children integrate and bounce back from an experience. Here are signs that it may be time to consult a Play Therapist with a background in trauma work to help your child process and feel better:

  • Changes in personality or drastic changes in behavior
  • Regression: suddenly acting younger than his/her age, reverting to old stages of development—reverse progress in potty training, sucking thumb, talking baby talk, bed-wetting
  • Mood swings and/or the child is unusually sullen, sad, angry or controlling
  • Unusual themes and feelings in the child’s play that suggest he/she is working through an overwhelming experience
  • Sleep disturbances, Nightmares
  • Social withdrawal or isolation for a previously social child
  • Changes in appetite and eating habits
  • Physical symptoms that don’t have a traceable physical cause

How Play Therapy Can Help

Here is how Play Therapy with a trained and experienced Play Therapist can help your child move through this difficult time and come back more resilient, confident and emotionally regulated.

As humans we are inherently relational, using our relationships to learn about ourselves, develop confidence and to heal when we are facing or have faced a challenge. Play Therapy offers children a unique relationship in which they can express their internal world and explore their struggles in a highly supportive and compassionate environment. As children express themselves, the therapist facilitates the processing and integration of stressful or traumatic experiences. Through their play, shifts in the biology of the child’s brain and nervous system are able to take place thus allowing the child more ease and fluidity in nervous system regulation. This shift leads to greater resilience, the ability to regulate stress and more ease in the expression of one’s emotional experience and states through words rather than through behavior.

Play Therapy is the research-based method of choice for helping children with a variety of issues including, but not limited to PTSD, depression, anxiety, abuse, behavioral challenges, adoption, divorce or separation, separation anxiety, grief and loss, sleep or eating disturbances, bed-wetting, impulsivity, social challenges and more.

 

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Insatiable Appetites: When kids want more and more and more…

There are times when each of us, young or old, encounters those internal voices that come from a sad scary place called “scarcity”—I’m not rich enough, pretty enough, my house and salary aren’t big enough, I don’t have enough______ (you fill in the blank). In Buddhism it is called “The Realm of the Hungry Ghosts” and it is not a pretty place to be. I’ve been doing some reflection about this in my own life recently. And I think it’s no coincidence that I’ve had several parents report to me this week that their kids simply cannot get enough: “Can we buy this?” “Will you buy me that?” “When can we go to the store?” “You said you’d get it for me if I was good.” Hungry little ghosts with persistent, insistent requests, often more like demands, that leave parents feeling empty, exasperated, helpless and often like there is no other choice than to give in.

Children have a right to ask for what they want. It’s ok for them to want and it is ok for us to validate their desire. “I hear you honey, I get that you want that Star Wars lego set.” We can validate children’s desires, appreciate them for asking kindly and we can say no. It’s ok to say no. It is up to parents to teach children that they are safe by maintaining boundaries, staying consistent and true to our word. Sometimes a child is pushing a parent because they are actually seeking a boundary. Children feel unsafe when they experience mom or dad as being inconsistent and not having the control in the situation. By modeling healthy ways of saying “no” we are setting a vital example for little ones who will, soon enough, be teenagers. For hungry teenage ghosts, it’s no longer just about Legos and Pokemon cards.

It is also up to parents to understand the underlying need and message beneath this insatiable appetite for stuff. It is up to parents to teach children that material goods are not a substitute for love and connection. Our materialistic society teaches that stuff can be a substitute for love. This is a scary message that kids receive far too often through the media. If your child is constantly bombarding you with requests for stuff and for trips to the toy store, likely they are coming from a place of scarcity and they are struggling to feel their own self worth. It is up to us adults to help them feel loved and worthy by being willing to connect and redirect that feeling of emptiness.

Rather than hop in the car and head to Grandrabbits, let’s offer children connection, some special play time, an activity that you can do together. Offer them the love and connection that they are seeking, that can never be satisfied by another plastic toy. Make it a practice to redirect the requests and demands for stuff to an opportunity to experience your abundance as a family. “Honey, I hear that you want that Pokemon card, but we have so many toys already so we aren’t going to get it. Since we aren’t going to the toy store, we can have some special play time together instead.” Then make it a point to substitute undivided attention, connection and love for the ‘stuff’ in question.

Parenting coach Pantea Dunn gave me a fabulous practice for families to shift the focus from material goods to relational connection. You’ll need a jar, some pencils or markers and some paper or cardstock. Together with your child(ren) come up with special activities you would like to do together as a family. You can even color code the activities for things you do on a regular basis and special treat activities. Each week (bi-weekly, monthly—whatever works for you) your child picks one and you do it together. Do not buy gifts or toys for these special days. This is about connecting and spending time together without the interruption of material goods. The one rule is that each activity that goes into the jar needs to be something you are 100% willing and able to do when it is chosen. Activities can range from playing blocks together, going to the park, riding bikes, going out for pizza (more regular basis activities) to going to the zoo, going miniature golfing, swimming… I love this idea because you can get creative and have so much fun fantasizing about all the cool things you can do together as a family.

The change may not happen overnight. Your child may still ask for things for some time to come. But somewhere beyond the realm of the hungry ghosts lies nirvana. As you hold clear boundaries and offer consistent, undivided attention and connection doing things that your child loves to do, positive change will take place. And you will both be able to experience how abundant and blessed you are just simply because you get to be together.

Special thanks to parenting coach and guru mama Pantea Dunn for the invaluable input, creative ideas and hands on experience she offered to this article. Visit her website at www.myparentpartner.com.

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The Whole-Brain Child: A Must Read for Parents of All Children

Daniel Siegel continues to publish fascinating, applicable and well-researched material on shaping the parent-child relationship in ways that will most optimally foster a child’s emotional development. In this book he teams up with Dr. Tina Payne Bryson and the two set out to teach cutting-edge parenting strategies that speak directly to a child’s brain. Bryson and Siegel demonstrate what language to use and when to use it, in order to most effectively help a child integrate the various parts of the brain as he/she processes emotions. They explain their ideas not just through neuroscience but with comics, cheat sheets that you can keep on the fridge for quick reference, and hands-on techniques for explaining the concepts to children (even very young children) in order to help them understand their own brains.

Most parents want their children not only to survive and make it through life, but to thrive, to flourish, to be the best they can possibly be. Siegel and Bryson explain that the integration of the various parts of the brain is the key to developing emotional well-being and mental health. How to facilitate the integration process? Speak to your child, both verbally and nonverbally, in ways that take into account their logical, linear left brain and their creative, emotional right brain. Like a married couple, ideally these two sides of the brain connect, communicate and work together, especially when the going gets tough.

When kids are struggling or upset, Siegel and Bryson teach us to “connect and redirect”. First start by meeting your little one’s upset with a big dose of empathy and understanding. “Wow, I hear that you’re feeling really angry right now!” (I’d add, really sink into his experience and feel what it’s like to be him in this moment—sometimes parents tell me that they are concerned that empathy can feel condescending or feigned. Not if you’re truly being empathic and seeing the world from your child’s perspective.) So light up his right brain with some emotional connection. Once his big, intense feelings have settled, bring in the logical, linear left brain. Now you can offer discipline (which means teaching or a lesson, not punishment) and help him form a coherent story of the upsetting event.

In my practice, I often recommend books to parents as I think they are useful tools for normalizing our experiences and giving us strategies to work with. This one is not just a recommendation. It’s a MUST! Siegel and Bryson have given us such an accessible, hands on tool for helping kids through difficult times and, for those of you more left-brain types—it’s backed by neuroscience! What more can a parent ask for?

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The Trouble With Two: How Play Therapy Can Help Children Of Divorce

The trouble with two: Two homes, two beds, two different parenting styles, different routines and rituals, time spent moving back and forth, shuttling their favorite belongings in order to ease the transition. Not to mention mom and dad preoccupied with their own affairs, frustrated, angry (or worse) with each other, stressed about finances and legal expenses, exhausted from single parenting.

Even in the most idyllic of separations, children feel the effects of divorce. They experience the stress of their caregivers, as well as their own anxiety and fears, whether conscious or unconscious, about a number of questions. Was it my fault? Will I get to see mommy or daddy when I want to? Will I have to change schools? Why am I the only kid among my friends whose mommy and daddy live in separate houses? Why can’t we all live together like we used to? Will they still love me the same?

With the prevalence of divorce in our country, these are questions that nearly half of us adults will have to answer for our children at some point in their lives. So it is vital to your child’s sense of well-being and ability to cope that you consider your child’s feelings and keep an open dialogue about the changes that are happening in your family. Assure kids that it is absolutely not their fault that their parents are separating. Let them know that both parents still love them as much as ever. And never, ever speak negatively of the other parent to or in front of your child (and remember that little ears can hear a long way). Kids often adjust to the divorce by exhibiting new and often difficult behaviors, meant to communicate the pain and stress they are under as a result of this major change. Be sensitive to the changes in your child’s behavior and, rather than punishing, listen to the non-verbal messages he/she may be trying to send you.

As a psychotherapist who specializes in Play Therapy, many of my young clients are struggling with the residue and the emotional impacts of their parents’ divorce. Typically, the higher the degree of conflict between parents, the more stressed the child seems to be; but this isn’t always the case. Even in amicable separations, children can become quite anxious and overwhelmed by the change.

In therapeutic play children process their internal emotional experience (which is often stored in the unconscious) by using the toys and the play to symbolize what they are feeling. With children of divorce, I often see an unsettling quality, a constant sense of back and forth, in the play: the water moves back and forth between containers, the child moves back and forth between the playroom and the waiting room, the characters in the play must unsettlingly move back and forth between places, often the child embodies this sensation by moving or rocking back and forth in his/her own body. I also see a great need for a sense of control and predictability. This child will announce into a toy microphone or loudspeaker what’s coming next each step of the way (communicating her stress around unpredictable changes). She will move not only her own pieces but mine as well when we are playing checkers so that she is fully in charge of what happens in the game. Children who are experiencing even higher levels of stress will often turn to protective and assertive toys such as handcuffs and toy weapons in order to exert the sense of power and control that they are needing to feel as a response to their parents’ separation. When we pay close attention to the subtleties of a child’s play we learn the ways that they strive to express their internal experience in order to feel understood and safe in themselves again.

Play Therapy allows children the space to explore these deep emotional experiences that are often stored in the unconscious mind. Through the play they process stressful and overwhelming feelings and integrate their capacity for self-soothing and self-regulating. Simultaneously, they gain tools for coping with their stress and words to express their feelings so that they do not need to use difficult behaviors in order to communicate. It also gives parents a snapshot into their child(ren)’s emotional world, ideally giving parents more opportunities to meet the child’s emotional needs. Children of divorce develop a very special bond with the therapist who becomes a trusted ally, outside of the family, in the child’s process of adapting to his/her new family structure. With the therapist’s support, the family can express the challenges that divorce has presented and heal by experiencing new opportunities for growth and connection with each other.

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Parenting through the Deep End

I believe that parenting is the most challenging and important occupation that there is. And yet it’s a job for which we don’t have to submit a resume, show up for an interview, read the employee handbook or attend trainings and workshops to upkeep our skill set. Parents are thrown into the deep end with no floaties on their arms and sometimes it may feel like you are flailing your way across an Olympic size pool, clumsily dog paddling to keep afloat you and the puppies holding onto your feet for dear life.

So we often turn to the resources at our fingertips to help us through our journey. But with all the myriad of parenting philosophies, books, websites, approaches out there, an Amazon search for “parenting books” can leave us feeling more overwhelmed and helpless than we felt on our own. Google “Parenting Philosophies” and you will come up with over 996,000 search results. So where do we begin and how do we sift through the information we are given in order to decide what is best for our families?

When I work with parents I start with the underlying Truth that they, not I, know their child best. Different things work for different children. While I am not a big proponent of “time out” as punishment, some children do very well with a time out in order to take a little break and calm themselves down. For other children, it can be a painful trigger and send them into further dys-regulation and shut down. It depends on the kiddo and on the way you are framing it as parents. If you have tried something, it comes from a place of love and compassion and it works well with your child, trust in it.

I encourage parents to trust in their intuition. When we read a parenting book, attend a class or ask for help from others, we are not surrendering our responsibility over to another. We are expanding our resources and our repertoire of possibility, giving us more options to draw from; but we are certainly not obligated to take what “the experts” tell us at face value. These so-called experts (myself included) are human…They have their own stories, their own wounds, their own “stuff” (if you will) and there is nothing on Earth that has made them fully capable of knowing what is best for your child 100% of the time. So trust in yourself. Be compassionate with yourself. Take away what feels right for you and gratefully add it to your tool kit. You are welcome to leave the rest behind and just know that it’s there if you’re needing to try something entirely different.

My final bit of advice stemming from my own philosophy of parenting and relationship…sink into the child’s experience before doing anything else. What was she feeling? What was he trying to communicate through his behavior, but didn’t have the words to express? How might it feel to be all alone up in his room while he’s feeling sad and helpless? Once you have allowed yourself some space to be curious and empathic, then you respond to the situation from a place of love. This doesn’t mean you forego limits and boundaries or that you let children run rampant. It’s your job to be the container and provide the boundary to help them learn and feel safe. What it does mean is that you take the time to understand that at the root of your child’s negative behavior is a scared little person who doesn’t have the tools to communicate. So you let him know that you got the message (to the best of your ability) and you understand how he may feel. This is hugely empowering and liberating for a child.

This post was inspired by a newsletter I have been receiving from the Love and Logic Institute. When you google “parenting philosophies” Love and Logic is the first of 996,000 entries. So it has a lot of clout. Their overarching purpose is to teach parents to raise responsible children, which  is noble and lovely, of course. And they sometimes come out with tidbits encouraging empathy, which is great. But there are times when I question how they are able to maintain such unwavering support for what often feels like a very unsupportive approach to parenting. So I will leave you with a story from them to ponder over. Remember these simple instructions:

1. Trust in your intuition
2. Find your empathy- sink into the child’s experience
3. Act from a place of Love, not Fear

Now read on and feel free to comment on what you would do in this situation:

from The Love and Logic Institute (Read post here)

Veronica came to the fourth session of her Becoming a Love and Logic Parent® class anxious to get help with a festering problem with Jake. Twelve-year-old Jake decided that he no longer needed to listen to his mom. His growth spurt now made him taller than his single mom.
“I was so embarrassed on our last ‘movie day.’ I’d saved money to take him and his little brother to the movies. You should have been there. He wouldn’t take his feet off the back of the seats in front of us and he made one loud nasty remark after another during the movie. Several of the patrons even told him to settle down. I just didn’t know what to do.”
A couple of the class members offered to help Veronica design a Love and Logic training session for Jake. They had fun putting the plan together.
On their next “movie day,” big sixteen-year-old Preston appeared at her door just before they were ready to leave for the theater. He was the son of one of her fellow Love and Logic class members.
“I’m here to babysit you, Jake. I understand that you were a jerk the last time you went to the show, so you’re not going this time. By the way, this is going to cost you big time. I hope you’ve got fifteen dollars ’cause I’ve got better things to do with my time than sit around the house with a jerk who doesn’t know how to act in public.”
“Hey,” yelled Jake. “I’m not staying with you, and I’m not paying. I’m leaving!”
“Fine, kid. Your mom says that if you don’t pay, I can go through your room and take anything I want as payment. Have it your way.”
Little did Jake know that this plan had been hatched at Mom’s parenting class. What do you think will happen the next time this family goes out in public?

 

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Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do.          -Marianne Williamson

 

I have the greatest job in the world. I work with kids and help them learn and experience how loveable they are. And I work with parents and help them access their own strengths and inner beauty so that they can see the greatness in their children. I mean, it doesn’t get better than that. My intention is to help everyone who walks through my door, big or small, cultivate a deep sense of love and appreciation for him or herself. This is the force that drives healing.

It sometimes feels as if we live in a world where it is not permissible to love ourselves (often mistaken as ego). That doing so takes away from our ability to show up for others. That we must not take up space in this world if we are to get by. This, however, is a fear-based way of thinking that can lead to senseless acts of hatred and violence. It can cause us to project our own self-loathing onto those in our closest environment, onto those who trigger our vulnerabilities and onto people who are different from ourselves. This is what seems to be happening in the recent race-related killings of Trayvon Martin and Kenneth Chamberlain. As I am reeling from the news of these two killings (and so much other turmoil on our planet), I’m working to step up my personal path of self-love and that on which I work to guide my clients. For me, this is the solution to atrocities such as these–preventing it by loving ourselves (and therefore each other) as fully as we can.

As a child, this sort of relationship with myself was as far from permissible as running out onto the freeway during rush hour. When I was in the first grade I had an experience that left a pretty big impact on me. It was one of those little events in your life whose residue lingers for years to come. My parents had returned from Back to School Night for my classroom. They were mortified and needed to talk to me immediately. Hanging up on the wall of my classroom were worksheets that each of us little 6 year-olds had filled out listing a number of things that we LOVE. What had struck my parents and led them to decide I needed some reprimanding was that I had chosen to write “ME” as my answer. So, I was 6 and I loved myself…was that really such a bad thing? I remember my dad, in particular, scolding me, telling me it wasn’t nice to write that and that I should have written in some member of my family. Now as an adult, I have compassion for my parents and the vulnerable place they were coming from, not having had all the resources for self-love and nurturing that i have. And I think deep down, even as a 6-year old child, I knew they couldn’t fully take away my ability to love myself; but I sure as heck wasn’t ever going to reveal that to anyone. What a sad moment in the life of a child…the day she is taught that it’s not ok to love yourself. Now it’s my mission to shift this perspective and teach parents the benefits and joys of watching little people recognize their own inner greatness.

Hence, my career path and my personal path, as well. And hence, my message to you parents. Let your little one bask in his integrity and his light. Children are uninhibited little messengers of truth. When your child experiences herself as “the best” or “amazing”, admire her capacity for self love. Learn from her self love! Watch him/her shine and think of all the ways that you also wanted to be seen as a child. Give yourself a great big dose of self love and let your child know he/she has permission to do the same. The world will be such a sweeter place because of it.

And a poem whose words you can bathe in today:

Love After Love

The time will come

when, with elation

you will greet yourself arriving

at your own door, in your own mirror

and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.

You will love again the stranger who was yourself.

Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart

to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored

for another, who knows you by heart.

Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,

peel your own image from the mirror.

Sit. Feast on your life.

Derek Walcott

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