Janet Courtney, Ph.D. is a leader in developmental play therapy and wants to help stressed mothers who may need some new ideas of ways to calm and settle their children. She is especially interested in adding to the existing cultural traditions of women living in war, war-like conditions and in the aftermath. We have posted some of her calming activities for children on our ACTIVITIES page.
She talks about what motivated her to do this work:
When I was a child, I would hold back and “stuff” down those hard feelings—sadness, anger, fear, guilt, shame. I would not share them but kept my hurts to myself. I was not encouraged to talk about my feelings nor did anyone teach me how to safely express them. This led to severe migraines and a lot of emotional shutting down. What I learned as I grew older and eventually went into the field of Social Work is that we train ourselves to hold in those painful feelings mostly through breath control – we hold our breath in order to not feel. For example, when sad, I felt I had to be “strong” and not allow myself to cry often tightening my chest and clenching my stomach to hold back tears. As I later discovered, this is done mostly through the restricting of my breath. As I learned how to consciously use my breath to rid my body of the stuck energy (which is all that emotions are anyway—energy), I found myself feeling lighter.
When I had children of my own, I would teach them how to express their angry feelings by punching a pillow and at the same time breathing out a long huff of powerful breath—please know, that to hit a pillow while holding in your breath is not helpful. So it’s important to watch for that and to encourage youngsters (or adults) punching a pillow to include a strong blowing out of the breath as they punch. Ask your child to make a powerful/empowering sound that ensures the release of a big breath —like the roar of a lion. Also when I taught these activities to my kids, I would sit with them to hold the space of safety and being totally present with them. As they grew, they had skills and knowledge to take care of their hard feelings in positive ways.
So I hope that this will help expand what you know and be easy to use — through imagination and breath- work to help your children feel better. Try these activities yourself, they help adults also.
Warm Hugs, Janet
***** We suggest you also try the free app: Breathe2relax
If any of you, our reader has simple ways to calm children and yourself, please write us: Andrea@ashlar.org