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Lindsey, a new student at her high school, naturally wanted
to be “in” with the other students. Walking to an off-campus drama class,
Lindsey conversed with Taryn, a popular girl.
Taryn asked Lindsey if she smoked
marijuana. “No,” Lindsey responded. Taryn said, “We’re gonna go and smoke
before class. You seem cool. If you wanna join us, come on.” According to
Lindsey, Taryn was “cool,” and a girl Lindsey wanted acceptance from.
But Lindsey noticed, as she considered
Taryn’s offer, that she felt kind of anxious. Lindsey told Taryn, “No, I have
something I need to do.” She said later, “I felt uneasy in my stomach. I felt
myself tighten up, like my body was physically going on guard.”
Fortunately, Lindsey was raised to
notice the signals in her body– and to trust them. You can teach your children
to pay attention to and trust the signals in their bodies so that when they are
in situations without you, their instincts will be intact, and they will make
Kinesthetic (or body) awareness can be
introduced at any age. In infancy, you support kinesthetic awareness when you
hold your baby, and provide safe, pleasurable experiences.
To help toddlers and preschoolers tune
in to their bodies, play games such as “Freeze!” Once your child “freezes,” ask
her to tell you, without looking, something about her body position, for
example, whether her elbows are bent or straight.
With a preschooler, you can talk about
what different emotions feel like in her body, and where she feels them. Of
course it is very helpful to be able to tell your child where you feel
emotions, in your body.
With an older child, introduce
kinesthetic awareness at a time when your child is relaxed. Ask your child,
“Have you ever noticed that you actually feel your emotions in your body?”
“Do you remember what it felt like
when you and Cara were mad at each other? Can you tell that your body
feels differently now that you’ve made up?” Then, when a more difficult
situation occurs, the subject of body awareness will be familiar.
When 6-year-old Evan came home from school, his mother,
Cheryl, could tell something was wrong. At bedtime, as Cheryl was settling down
to read him a story, Evan admitted that he had told his class a terrible story
about his family that wasn’t true.
As they talked about what happened,
Cheryl asked how Evan’s body felt as a result. “Bad,” he said. “It feels bad.
Right here,” and pointed to his solar plexus. “Yes,” agreed Cheryl, “It feels
really bad to tell a lie.”
When Evan made amends, Cheryl brought
his attention again to what his body felt like now that he had told the truth.
“Better!” Evan reported. “Much better.”
By underlining the comparison for
Evan, Cheryl brought attention to the role the body plays in choices her child
makes. When he told a lie, his body felt bad. When he told the truth, his body
This is a comparison that Evan will
build on throughout his childhood – particularly if this type of comparison is
repeated often. When Evan is confronted with difficult situations such as peer
pressure to engage in risky behavior, he will have many kinesthetic experiences
to draw on. It is an invaluable skill that will help him to make better choices
in the future.
Caroline Goodell is the creator of
Kinesthetic Parenting and Director of the Institute for Body Awareness in Seattle.
For more information and to register for Kinesthetic Parenting classes, please