Nothing is more distressing than listening to a baby cry. I’m not just saying that about me. There’s a lot of research on the topic. When we hear a child in distress all we want to do is make it stop. Their hurt makes us hurt.
I don’t think that ends when they’ve grown. I watch my son in pain and all I want to do is take it away.
My distress – my very real pain – can be good. It motivates me to get out and fight for him. Heck, it’s what motivated me to build the 1step2life app!
But it can also interfere with my ability to help. Because my pain can be so loud that it drowns out what my son is saying to me.
My pain can be saying
- “If you were doing more, he wouldn’t be hurting.”
- Or “Are pushing him too hard?”
- Or – at the very same time – “Are you pushing him hard enough?”
- Or “You’re a bad mother. This is all your fault.”
Awful painful voices.
Sometimes the voices in my head can be less cruel. They can be bossy voices, pushing exercise and medicine and all the things that make me feel like I’m doing the right thing and helping my son heal.
Or they can be defensive voices, or even angry voices.
But the point is, they are MY voices. The voices in MY head. MY feelings. MY fears.
Being Quiet and Listening
Sometimes it’s important to listen to those voices and meet our needs. Maybe even use those voices to tell us what’s wrong. And maybe get some support from friends, spouses and partners, or a good psychologist. Heavens knows parents with kids living with chronic pain or disability can use some help.
But when your child is in distress, the most important voice to listen to is THEIRS.
They need you to hear them and soothe them and tell them they’re safe. Because pain really is our brains’ way of warning us that we’re not safe. That’s how the amygdala works. It takes stimuli and interprets it. If it interprets the stimuli as dangerous we experience pain. If we are calmer and feel safer, that same stimuli produces a different sensation.
That means that we, as parents, can help our kids by making them feel heard, and feel loved, and feel safe. We need to still our own inner voices – at least for a while – so we can hear theirs and let our calmest, safest voice come through.
And when we make them feel safe, we’ll feel better too.
We’ve written a number of blogs about biofeedback and stress reduction. They work for parents and caregivers just like they work for people in pain.
The ones I use most often are here: How To Relax in Five Minutes.
Check out the 1step2life app!
Start where you are. Set your own goals. Take back your life. A tool for tracking goals, emotions, and success, not just logging pain. And the only app that has a mode specifically for parents, partners, and other carers that supports effective coaching and strong relationships.