I returned this week from taking a womb-surround birth process workshop. It was a life-altering experience for me and while I can’t explain it all here, I would like to share some of what I learned and how it applies to us as parents.
Our nervous systems are made to cycle in a regular pattern with an up cycle and a down cycle. If we are in a state of overwhelm, we either keep cycling up to a state of overstimulation or keep cycling down to a state of isolation. If we can realize we are on the edge of overwhelm, we can restore ourselves to balance and self-regulate.
“Taking a pause” refers to acknowledging and naming we are on the edge of overwhelm. In the group setting I was in, a person would raise their hand, interrupting whatever was going on, and say “I need a pause”. The group would stop, the person would name what was occurring, and then after a few moments of adjustment and settling back in, the group would resume. What this felt like emotionally and physically would be getting agitated, realizing I was getting agitated, announcing a pause, and then just letting my body take its time and calm down. It was remarkable easy to do.
At home, I am practicing the same thing. The only difference is that the children might not stop what they are doing, but I go ahead and announce my pause anyways. I pause, regroup and let my body assimilate whatever it’s reacting to, and then can rejoin the activity.
What makes pause so profound is that as the parents learn now to self-regulate their nervous systems, the children automatically calm down. We all know the experience of being stressed by something and the children acting more wound up than usual — we have such a profound influence on our families, that taking a pause can dramatically shift our dynamics.
So some examples of pauses yesterday for me:
- I wanted my child to do something and she kept ignoring me. I started to get agitated, took a pause instead and relaxed. I was able to then go into interact with my daughter in a different and more effective way.
- My daughter started talking about something on t.v. she had seen. The mention of t.v. gets me immediately agitated, and I wasn’t able to hear her. I took a pause, told her I wanted to hear her, reset and then was able to hear her.
- My husband was sharing a lot from work. I wanted to hear him but wasn’t able to absorb everything he was saying. I took a pause, asked for a minute to absorb what he was saying, and then we continued talking.
“Taking a pause” sounds like a mom’s time-out but it is much more immediate and shorter. To me, it feels like allowing our bodies, which move at a slower rhythm, to catch up with our minds, which move much quicker. The barometer of this integration is our emotional state.
At first, I felt stupid raising my hand but now it feels really good. I hope that others can try it — in whatever form it takes — and feel the support we can get for our nervous systems by just taking a moment to acknowledge and breath.
I’ll share more in my next post, but until then:
Update Oct 7 2013: When I wrote this I was still exploring different options to parenting and unschooling. I now have very different views on t.v. and “wanting my child to something”. The concept of pauses still applies. However, the examples I gave are outdated.
Photo by Andrea Reiman