Bird Box | Children’s Needs

Bird Box | Children’s Needs

A few weeks ago, I watched the highly trending movie, Bird Box. In short, it involved survival of a woman and her children against an unknown force that took the form of their worst fears. If you see it, you die.


Every character, including the kids, were constantly on high-alert of the life-threatening situation. Just to set the scenes, each child was only named Boy and Girl to ‘protect’ them from becoming attached should Malorie (main character) die and they were not allowed to hear stories of seeing/playing in the outside world again. Ever. They were to remain blindfolded whilst outdoors at all times. Should they hear a noise, the children were ordered to ignore it and continue with their task no matter how tempted they may be. You can imagine as children, they would be frightened and curious of what the mysterious and deadly entity may be.

After a long, dangerous journey, Malorie and her two children reached a safe-house filled with other survivors. At last, she began to express her love to the children and gave them freedom to be kids again; to play and explore in their new community home. Malorie also gave each child a proper name, honouring people she had lost in her life.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

According to American psychologist and humanistic theorist, Abraham Maslow, human needs can be categorised in the form of a pyramid (as above). He suggested that once a person has their basic needs met (physiological, safety, belonging etc), they can move up the pyramid of needs to ultimately reach self-actualisation/self-transcendence.

It is important to remember though that varying personal circumstances can result in fluctuating between these “stages”. Cultural factors like language and community beliefs can also affect a child reaching developmental milestones.

As stated in the pyramid above, all children deserve and need to feel safe in their environment, food, water and shelter, a sense of belonging and self-esteem. As children mature and their brains develop, their cognitive, aesthetic and self-actualisation needs can be met.

The Importance of Play

For children, being able to have unstructured play time allows them to develop social, cognitive and emotional skills. Play also gives children the freedom to express themselves through re-enactment and creativity. Further more, play time helps in learning and monitoring emotions of themselves and others.

The Stress Response (AKA the fight-or-flight response).

As it sounds, the stress response is simply how we respond to a stressful situation. Physiological changes occur in our bodies to prepare us to either “fight” or “take flight” (run) from a threat. It is said to be an evolutionary defence mechanism to ensure the survival of the human race.

For young children, stress responses to trauma can vary. Some children find it difficult to talk about the event while others repeat the event constantly. Other children may use their creativity to process an ‘alternate ending’. As I saw in the movie, Malorie’s children ’emotionally shut down’ in response to constant danger. There was no time to process emotions. They needed to survive.

Children may not have the capability to fight or run when faced with a stressful situation, which is why it is important that we do our best to provide for their needs like shelter, safety and belonging.

Bird Box in real life – the signs.

In order to help support children in the best way possible, it is important to know what signs to look for.

Signs of trauma/stress in children aged 3-12 years old:

  • Shutting down/withdrawing from everyday experiences
  • New/increased clingy behaviour towards a parent, carer or a staff member
  • Sleeping difficulties and nightmares
  • Drawing or re-enacting a traumatic event
  • Tantrums, grumpiness or misbehaving at home/in school
  • Complaints of unexplained headaches or tummy aches
  • Fearful of the traumatic event being their fault
  • Regression – reverting to a former/underdeveloped state in terms of speech or going to the toilet
  • Forgetfulness or difficulty concentrating

How can we support children who have experienced trauma?

First, it is important to provide a safe environment. Like Malorie and her partner, they did their best to provide shelter from the elements as well as from the dangerous entity. As adults, carers or staff members, it is our duty to ensure the safety of the most vulnerable.

Another way to support a child, is to talk with them about what happened. Being heard can be powerful for a child experiencing distressing emotions. This can build trust and form a safe bond for children to feel secure to face life’s challenges.

If the trauma is severe, or if the child is suffering from a mental illness caused by a traumatic event, another form of support could be seeking the help of a mental health professional.

In Australia, there are many organisations here to help support, educate, treat and fight for children. I have listed them below.

I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way. Show them all the beauty they possess inside.

Greatest Love of All – Whitney Houston
Welcome back to my regular readers and thank you for joining me if you are new! This blog is about mental-health wellness as well as lifestyle topics like fashion, food, decluttering and travel adventures.
You can stay connected for updates, quotes and general life-happenings on my Facebook pageInstagramEbay and Twitter!

It is possible to create change and manifest positivity in your life! x

Childhood Trauma Series | The Beginning

Childhood Trauma Series | The Beginning

Defining childhood trauma

Childhood trauma refers to a frightening, dangerous or distressing event that threatens a child’s life or bodily integrity. This can also include being a witness to a loved ones suffering or pain (vicarious trauma). Events like natural disasters, emotional, physical or sexual abuse can have long-term effects on developing minds and bodies.


A trip down memory lane

It was a normal school day (besides my slipping attendance, which was not new). The year-level coordinator approached me after lunch. I was somewhat nervous but also oblivious to the conversation that would ensue. He asked me a series of questions regarding my lateness, whether I’d lost weight etc. After telling him a small portion of what was happening in my life, he used the word ‘abuse’ to describe what I had mentioned. This was a shock. How was I going through abuse? Wasn’t every other student experiencing this too? When he’d ask how I was faring from then on, I would assure him I was okay, even though I wasn’t. As a teenager, I thought I was right (typically) and it couldn’t be possible that what he said was true. Little did I know, pushing him away (as well as my pain), would cause an emotional overload, years down the track.

A few years later, I was studying Art Therapy. There was a particular module in the course based on The Inner Child. Most modules consisted of theory coupled with practical work. This practical exercise required us to trace the outline of our own body onto large butcher paper. Then, we needed to draw or create an item our inner child needed. I stared at my outline for quite some time. Eventually, I drew a heart shape and coloured it in with a marker. The flood gates had been opened… the next year or so would be one of the biggest struggles of my life.

Throughout my time studying Art Therapy, other peers would share their experiences and I felt somewhat detached. I felt sorry for them but I didn’t have the capacity to truly sympathise. It was like my brain switched off the department to feel pain for others. Including for myself. I began struggling to concentrate. I started skipping class. I didn’t want to do the practical work for fear of all the “shit” coming up in front of my peers. Feeling caged, and somehow ‘in danger’, I didn’t want to face it… face what? Class? Other students? The trainers? I was so confused. What was happening to me? I felt like I wanted to cry most of the time. My personal life was also affected: I was working in a toxic environment that caused panic attacks; my living circumstances were unstable; I had no one to turn to because I withdrew myself. Everything was overwhelming. 

The beginning of healing and discovery

At first, I wanted to see an Art Therapist to shed some light on what was going on. I completed one session but didn’t feel better. I started seeing a counsellor. As I was unravelling my childhood memories however, she mentioned something that made future sessions feel impossible. The college I was at, offered me a list of mental health professionals I could contact for further support. Going through the list, I searched each name on the web. After a few attempts, I came across a counsellor who was located in the city. I read through her website which 1. looked professional and 2. had a calming vibe. Her client reviews seemed positive too, which was great. That was the beginning of discovery and healing for me. 

This counsellor helped me through some harrowing times, past trauma and suppressed emotions. I learned from her how to care, be patient and acknowledge my emotions. I can’t thank her enough for her ability to hold space and offer unconditional support. It was exactly what I needed to begin healing. After a long time with C*, I noticed a ‘heaviness’ that I couldn’t shake – despite all the growth and learning that occurred. I knew then, it was time to find a new mental health professional. 

On-going self-work

A mutual friend suggested I see a specific psychologist that lived nearby. At the first consultation, the psychologist pointed out a possible ‘conflict’ that could hinder progress, if we were to work together. I was then referred on to my current psychologist, N*. 

Since I’ve started seeing N, I’ve grown and learnt SO much. I’ve noticed my thinking has changed a little over this time: I’ve begun thinking critically rather than reacting emotionally. Although my personality traits (that include being emotional) won’t change, I have been enjoying this shift in thinking patterns. Not every action requires a reaction! Sometimes all we need to do is put our ‘thinking cap’ on, and find ways to solve the problem at hand. Give ourselves space to feel what we’re feeling, and when we are able to, get to work on changing what needs to be changed! The power is in our hands. The power, is in our mind.

For me, talk therapy has been really helpful. Perhaps for you, other avenues like creativity coupled with talk therapy could be more helpful. Treatment isn’t a one-shoe-fits-all. What works for me, may not work for you and vice-versa.

Advice for anyone beginning the healing journey or going through it currently.

It may take a few (or more) tries to find a mental health professional that you feel safe with and connect with. Trust the process and be patient. Remember that healing isn’t overnight. Childhood trauma (or any trauma for that matter) can be complex, so be prepared for difficult days and nights. When we experience things during our childhood that shape our beliefs and values we hold, it can be terrifying to sift through memories. I know, I’ve been there. I’m still there. But with what I’ve worked through so far, it’s been the best choice in my life to ask for help and commit to doing the work. It’s time to move forward!

Another piece of advice I wish I had: make a tangible list of coping strategies that help you stay calm and centred in-between appointments. It can be scary, feeling overwhelmed from past memories. However, there is research out there that suggests techniques that help manage symptoms before your next appointment. Things that have helped me (and STILL do): yoga/general exercise, breathing exercises, guided meditations on YouTube, reading self-help books, learning about mental health and treatment, listening to podcasts and seeing friends/loved ones.

If you have any personal questions, contact me here. Please remember, there are people that care about you. Reach out to a trusted person or online community.

Here is a list of organisations that are here to help you:

  • blueknot helpline 1300 657 380 – complex trauma
  • beyondblue.org.au 1300 22 4636 – depression/anxiety awareness
  • kidshelpline.com.au 1800 55 1800 – private, confidential counselling
  • lifeline.org.au 13 11 14 – crisis support, suicide prevention
  • qlife.org.au 1800 184 527 – LGBTI support site
  • vvcs.gov.au 1800 011 046 – veteran, war-related support
  • ReachOut – youth mental health community support

 

 This kind of self-work is not easy, but worth it to move forward in life.

*Names have been omitted for privacy reasons.
*Some words are hyperlinked for further information/learning.

Image by just_shot_of_jameson.

Welcome back to my regular readers and thank you for joining me if you are new! This blog is about mental-health wellness as well as lifestyle topics like fashion, food, decluttering and travel adventures.
You can stay connected for updates, quotes and general life-happenings on my Facebook pageInstagramEbay and Twitter!

It is possible to create change and manifest positivity in your life! x