WHEN THINGS ARE HARD: DROP WORDS, ALIGN ENERGY, BOOST SAFETYFeb 08, 2024
Originally published on Apr. 21st, 2023. Written by Amanda Diekman.
Using spoken words can be a demand. Listening to spoken words can be a demand. So I often ask myself: "Can we do this without words?"
Tolerating someone's presence can be a demand. Tolerating someone's noises can be a demand. So I often ask myself: "Is my presence adding to or taking away from regulation right now?"
Engaging in non-preferred activities can be a demand. The presence of non-preferred foods can be a demand. So I often ask myself: "What foods and activities can cue safety?"
When things are hard, we go back to basics.
In place of conversation, I use nonverbal communication. I dramatically reduce the number of words I use and slow my pacing to give more processing time. I give my son lots of opportunities to use nonverbal ways to communicate with me (e.g. pointing, picture cards, thumbs up/down, "jump if you want to...").
I create a sensory environment that is calming and regulating for this particular child in this particular season. Often that involves being alone, but not always. Being responsive to energetic shifts and different needs in different moments is key. Sensory needs can change dramatically. What worked once doesn't work again. Matching the needs today is what matters most.
In difficult times, I focus on "special interests" and "same foods," those comforting daily habits that are inherently regulating to the nervous system. These familiar activities cue safety and promote joy, both things we want to maximize when things are hard. Other safety cues for us: Quiet parallel play, play where my child always wins.
Why is everything so hard?
Take this quick quiz to find out where you're getting stuck in your challenging parenting life and one next step to move forward with confidence.