Helping them to stay afloat…and then start to swim.

There’s a healing paradigm that we use. A simple four-step process that all but ensures a great outcome.

I think perhaps an analogy might help us make sense of it.

When children join us they are often tired, they have been fighting to keep their head above water for a long time now. And they seem to keep slipping lower and lower as their friends and classmates move forward. They have been paddling frantically below the surface for so long, poor little ducklings, they are tired even though they smile and play.

Our first job is to give them a rest. To hold them so that they can stop paddling to survive. Do you remember floating in a pool while someone gently held their hand under your neck or head? You can then make your body almost limp and your head would stay above the water.

We do this, we support their necks with a gentle hand and softly say, “we’ve got you, you can rest.” Our job starts with this simple act of support. Holding firmly enough so that they trust us enough to can stop paddling, so that they can rest into the help and be still and calm.

Some children take a few days to feel that support and trust it, others take months. They sometimes fight against it and push away, so we gentle remain where they left us and hold out our hand. “ You can rest here, my hand is enough to hold you. I only have to hold your neck like this and your whole body will be able to float and be carried not by me but by itself. You don’t have to be strong. I don’t have to be strong. My hand and your trust is enough. We just need to be the hand and the neck.”

Our second step is to keep that hand right there while we show them all the wonderful things that life has for them. We show them that they can breathe deeply and with intention. We show that they can move their arms slowly or fast or not at all. We help them to feel who they are again and trust in that again. We bring them back to themselves. We help them to see what we see. Help them to believe in themselves. Regardless of external rewards and worldy outcomes we teach them to find joy in who they are and what they can do.

Our third step asks them to follow our lead. To turn our words into their words. We carefully select words, phrases and imagery that feels and sounds like them. We use it in ways that talk to their core sense of themselves. We build up a possibility way of thinking, a stronger sense of self and the language of courage and self-compassion, of optimism and determination. We build those words for them and hand each word over to them, waiting for them to take them up. Pull those words closer to their hearts.

We are looking for the tipping point, when we stop hearing our voice as much, and we start hearing their voice. It was actually always their voice, they just didn’t recognise it. And when they do, they start to swim away from the hand under their necks. They float away with their voice that is getting louder and clearer, telling them they are okay.

Our last step is to stand back and witness them.

To have them try out all of the moves they have been taught, to stretch out their limbs and expand themselves, coming up with their own style and way of being in the world. To be the ears and eyes and heart that affirms that they are beautifully themselves.  Once affirmed enough they will go higher and further and deeper and look back only once.

Our job then is to nod and let them go.

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Lauren Edmunds

2 thoughts on “Helping them to stay afloat…and then start to swim.”

  1. I see every child, who has passed through our school, in this scenario.

    Older or younger.

    They each come with there own challenges.

    Expecting nothing.

    Yet, each new day brings them closer to their goals until that one day when they are ready.

    They know. And we know.

    That’s when they soar off on their own.

    Equipped for life.

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