Noticing the emergence of daffodils as Spring arrives prompts me to consider the unseen growth that takes place within humans and how we can nurture and encourage healthy inner growth for the children and young people in our lives. I’ve always admired daffodils, particularly their ability to survive the frosty winter and appear as much needed bursts of colour, trumpeting their magnificent yellowness, signalling lighter days ahead. Their unseen growth which takes place under the soil during the winter months and the fact the daffodils survive the frost, ice, storms, and rainy downpours before they bloom, is part of their magnificence.
Cries of “I can’t believe how much you’ve grown!” can often be heard when we notice the physical changes in children and young people we haven’t seen for a while. This outward physical growth is noticeable, and whilst inner growth is less easy to spot it needs noticing and nurturing too.
Optimum growing conditions
Just as plants need to be well watered and sometimes specific plant food is required, our inner sense of self also needs to be fed and watered. Unlike plants or seeds we may buy which come with instructions stating the best type of growing conditions and amounts of feeding required ‘for best results’, humans are not born with a list of instructions regarding the level of nurturing needed and specific conditions or input that will support individual inner growth.
A young person who has experienced relational trauma may not have received the level of nurturing input from their primary carer during their early years of life, and this will impact their inner well-being and how they are able to respond to and connect with the world around them.
Significant research over the last twenty years or so into neurobiology has discovered the brain’s wonderful plasticity. This means, in easy-to-understand terms, that positive human connections and interactions create important neural pathways within the brain at any age, which support well-being. As Bruce Perry, an eminent psychiatrist who specialises in childhood trauma states, ‘Relationships are the agent of change’, and in his work he highlights the importance of human connection and relationships as a healing force and a way of supporting growth.
Here at Beacon Family Services, we draw on the latest research in neurobiology and encourage playful ways to strengthen relationships by providing the nurturing experiences and sense of safety to support inner growth within playful human connections. Play offers many opportunities for moments of meeting and connection to occur within a safe, playful environment.
Our approach is based on polyvagal theory and the importance of a child, and adult, feeling safe.
We will all experience all three of these different states within our lives and a way we can nurture children and young people’s inner growth as adults, is to recognise their emotional state and our own, and to support them to navigate these feelings and move through them. You can read more in our blog ‘How To Tell If Your Child is Safe, Struggling or Drowning.’
Keep on watering regularly
Whilst some plants need sunlight and other plants need shade in order to thrive, the specific amount and type of nurturing needed by a child/young person who has experienced significant trauma in their lives, will vary from a child who has not had these experiences. Choosing a playful, non-threatening way which suits your child’s emotional state and helps you to create a connection with them is a key way to support both your own and your child’s inner growth. Beacon Family Services’ Cards To Help You Connect offer a range of games and activities which strengthen different aspects of a relationship.
Use code Easter15 for a discount until then end of the school holidays on our one-to-one resources.
Enjoy your plants new growth
Growth looks different for different people. Being able to tolerate someone else in a space alongside you or maintaining eye contact can be a huge development for one child, whilst for another joining a sports club, meeting new people and learning to be part of a team represents their growth. Both are equally significant.
Growth can also take varying amounts of time and just as a bulb you planted last autumn seems to be buried and lost beneath the soil, a sudden unexpected green shoot appearing as it grows and a flash of colour when the flower blooms, reminds us that important inner growth is not always visible to the human eye, but may be felt by the heart through the moments of meeting in play and human connection.
Let’s invest in the nurture of unseen inner growth through playful relationships, and let’s enjoy the blooming inner growth of our children, young people and ourselves too. Here’s to our role model, the daffodil, who raises our spirits as we emerge from the dark, cold winter!
Peppy Hills is a qualified play therapist who leads Project Salam at Beacon Family Services.