March Mangrove Newsletter

Dear Mangrove Families,

Midway through our family’s hospital stay with our four-year-old who was connected to an IV, receiving antibiotics and Tylenol, giving blood for testing, and just generally being poked at, I realized that perhaps this month’s newsletter should focus on what we can do as parents to help our children navigate situations when they are hurt or sick.
What can make your heart drop to your stomach quicker than your child getting hurt? I am not sure there is much. Your heart races, your adrenaline is pumping, your breathing gets heavy and fast. Your thoughts go to the worst and then you have to try to wrangle them back in cause you can’t stay in the scary headspace too long. It is hard. Our job is to protect them and sometimes when that falls apart and they get sick or injured, we freak out. Our heart races because they are our hearts.
Try to now step out of your body and put yourself in the body of a tiny human in a big world. You are working hard to figure out that world around you. There is so much to take in…. the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and experiences. As they take in each piece of information, their brains begin to sort and categorize in order to make sense of the constant flow of information. They look to the people who love them the most to model, teach, and support them as they meet each new milestone. They depend on routine and schedules, boundaries and expectations in order to find a sense of safety and security as the world reveals itself to them. Remember, you are in their tiny bodies, learning all this great stuff, loving life…… and just as accidents, injuries and sickness often does…. it comes out of nowhere; In one minute, everything you knew got flipped upside down. This wasn’t on the schedule, this wasn’t how that day was planned, your body hurts, you don’t know what is going on and ….. my parents are freaking out. Well if you are freaking out and I am supposed to look to you to figure out how to respond to this new situation and you are screaming and crying, pacing and frantic, scared and overwhelmed – then I am gonna join you in this survival game of fear.

“But Liz”, you say, “It is my baby, will always be my baby, how am I NOT supposed to freak out when my baby is hurt or sick?”
I get it. But I also get that you would do ANYTHING for them, right? Body in front of a train kind of anything. This is the train! Put your body in front of it!

You need to make the conscious effort to be the still deep calm strong water under the bridge that your child needs you to be. Cause the minute the waves start, they fear the raging storm ( even if In reality the storm is only a sprinkle), they begin the alert which can only be calmed by you.

Please don’t think that I am saying your feelings aren’t valid. They are. They are SO valid, in fact, that whatever you feel your child will feel them on an even more exaggerated level because all of this in new to them, you have had a lifetime to learn all you know. Not them. This is their first rodeo. New is unknown. The unknown can be scary.

What do parents need to remember when :
Your child falls off the slide
Your child scrapes their knee
Your child needs a shot
Your child breaks an arm
Your child is admitted to the hospital
Your child needs surgery…

Cause the answer is the same for all these different types of situations, small or large.

Breathe to remain calm.
Deep breaths in through your nose and out through your nose. When you breath in your nose and out your mouth, your body moves to fight or flight survival mode. And although the adrenaline pumping heightens your senses, you need to be the duck on the lake. Even if everything inside of you is paddling feverishly, everyone’s outside perception of you, especially your child’s, needs to be that of a duck gliding on the surface of the water. When you breath in through your nose and out through your nose, the oxygen has a calming effect and helps to create relaxation. Your children need to see that the people they rely on who love and protect them are calm so that it can help bring the back to calm.

Be the voice that validates, honors, and informs the experience.
As the adults in their lives, we are constantly sportscasting what is going on in order for them to be informed and make sense of the things that are happening around them. It is no different in times of stress and uncertainty. State what happened. Validate the feelings they are expressing. Explain what is around them, what happened, and what will happen in a developmentally appropriate way. Our children deserve honest information delivered to them in a respectful way that also validates their experience.

Show them your unconditional love.
A hug is a powerful tool that can really meet some deep needs of comfort and security. You are your child’s person. The person they can scream at, vomit on, cry with, hold and you love them through all of it. They know it and they need it. So ask your child when it gets hard and ugly and your child looks like they may be loosing all control, “Do you need a hug?” The pressure of your arms around them allows them to sink back into safety. Isn’t is amazing that we represent those huge feelings for them- love and safety, and in times of need and unpredictability, they need to feel those things more frequently.

Although this may feel like the cliffnotes version of ‘How to Help your Child in a Scary Situation’, if you keep those tools in mind, it will make a world of difference to your child. I am not an expert, but my family has no been around the block with EVERY scenario mentioned above and I thank all my stars that I had this Montessori knowledge in my pocket for all of it. We can’t take the pain away from them, but damn it, I am gonna do my best to make this experience less scary, less stressful, and less overwhelming for my tiny humans.

If you ever need more resources, have questions, need to talk, I am available. We are all part of this Mangrove family and the toddler team is your back up support, ready to help, if we can.

Wishing you health and always sending love,
Ms Liz and Ms Sonia