I recently went to my kids’ school’s parent council meeting. I learned that in the next couple of weeks they will be doing fire drills and tornado drills. I felt a little anxiety creep up in my chest.
We have a VERY sensitive fire alarm in our house, and have had dozens of false alarms. My son is really sensitive to loud sounds. He’s done well in the moment, but then he’ll talk about the alarm going off for weeks. Then there are times when he just sees a fire alarm and freezes. It’s so sad to watch, and I’ve tried to help him see that everything is okay.
I wondered, “Should I warn him that there will be a fire alarm? Or would it be better for it just to happen?” I decided to tell him. I still don’t know if this was the easiest answer. He seemed pretty calm about it, and then he calmly says, “I kind of don’t want to go to school, because I’m afraid the fire alarm is going to go off.”
We’ve talked before about how emotions are just sensations from chemicals released from our brains because of thoughts in our head. We’ve talked about the concept introduced to me through Jody Moore about the monkey (lower brain) in our heads, that thinks everything is dangerous. So I told him, “Your monkey is scared and thinks it will be a terrible thing if the alarm goes off and is so worried about the alarm going off. Do you think you can reassure him, just like you would a younger child, that it’s going to be okay, even if the alarm goes off?” He seemed to understand this, because he’s really good at reassuring others that things are going to be okay. We talked about how it has always been okay when alarms have gone off. It was loud, but it didn’t last for a long time, and we always left the building. I will let you know how this goes, but something interesting happened.
I don’t know why I’m surprised every time, but whenever I’m trying to help my kids through something, I say things that I really need to tell myself. “Your lower brain (lower brain, inner toddler, whatever you like to think of) is really anxious about sending the kids to school, do you think you can reassure it that everything is going to be okay?” You don’t need to tell it that it doesn’t need to be scared or anxious. Just reassure it that those emotions are normal and here are some new thoughts, that are probably more true, to create different emotions. It’s a much more compassionate way to interact with ourselves.
How are you compassionate with yourself when you’re struggling?