Luz, age 8, had come to counseling for help with intrusive thoughts of death and other worries. I could easily relate. I, too, used to feel anxious about things like lava, just because it could be found, glowing and deadly, somewhere in the world. Like me, Luz needed help feeling safe and strong where she was. Mindfulness to the rescue!
During our first visit, we practiced controlled deep breathing, which I assigned, with her permission, for bedtime homework: conscious breathing, plus sharing 3 Happy Things with whichever parent tucked her in. Asking her permission served more than one purpose. It established some buy-in, for starters; it also demonstrated, I hope, my respect for her autonomy and empowered her with the opportunity to say, “Yes, that’s okay with me.”
Luz made swift progress, according to her and her mom’s reports. In the office, her mischievous personality emerged and flashed in her smile and sly glances. Her symptoms of anxiety—including tearfulness, difficulties concentrating at school, and somatic complaints—receded. She seemed to be developing resilience and a feeling of efficacy; she even invented her own coping mechanism, which I hope to tell the story of, some other time.
Here’s the current cause for celebration: this week, Luz reported that she hadn’t had a single worry since our last meeting. Not one! Instead, her mother shared, she’s been petitioning to stay up later and pitching a fit or two when she can’t. For a parent, that might not seem like a triumph, but I was frankly thrilled to hear it; my little client was wanting another hour of fun in her day. (This is not an assumption, but what she expressed to me.)
I noticed Luz making a face as her fussing was related, however, and asked how she was feeling. “Embarrassed,” she said. She hadn’t wanted me to hear about it. When I asked if there was anything we might do that would help her feel less embarrassed, she suggested coloring. Luz loves making art.
As with asking permission, eliciting solutions from a child is a form of empowerment. My reward for thinking to do that was to sit with her as this figure emerged: long hair, brown skirt, black leggings, a cardigan, and then a telltale flash of red, which I had put on that morning to brighten the cloudy day and mood I was in. Luz was showing me how she saw me: smiling, happy. I told her, as I accepted her gift, that I must be smiling because Luz was standing just outside the picture, looking in at me.
I first wrote about Luz here.