Last updateMon, 28 Jan 2013 9pm

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Shortcuts to communicating with your child

As a nurse, I was always taught to watch the body carefully. The body is a SYSTEM, so when my Ward Sister told me to observe it, although she hadn't got a clue that she was talking to a jelibean who was only too willing to watch and learn a SYSTEM, I sure as hell watched it. And I worked it out, with her help.

A sure sign of pain is toe curling as is stroking and touching the forehead a sign of headache. Notice and observe your child's stims, which I'll write about later. You may already have been able to detect some changes in the SYSTEM but look for the others. Notice in particular, as I was taught to do, for a changing of skin colour. Pallor or pale complexion followed by bright red tomato face is an indication that anger is close. Legs swinging, sweaty hands and face, and eye-flicking are sure signs that your jelly bean isn't happy. An irritable, fidgety jelibean is potentially a little time bomb waiting to go off. My advice is to observe your child when they're not looking, make a mental note next time they throw a tantrum, watch for the signs because they're always there.

Equally, stimming increases when a child or adult is frightened, anxious and feeling vulnerable and unSAFE. Please, please watch for these particularly disturbing stims. When you notice them, don't keep the information to yourself. Remember to train yourself as a parent to communicate essential information to your docking station at school. It's hard for a teacher when they have a noisy class of thirty eight- year-olds to deal with. They may not have noticed your child's particular stim but it will be very helpful to tell them what to look out for.

But the child, too, has to have a SYSTEM for quickly identifying mood.I'm sure that a common problem you may be experiencing with a volatile, unpredictable jelibean is that they seem to go from angelic to devilish in a millisecond so how can you predict a sudden change of mood?

One method that I've found useful is to describe emotions in the form of weathers - sunny, overcast, rainy and tsunami.A jelibean child will very occasionally go from sunny to tsunami without warning. Actually some notice that rainy (upsetting) is more appropriate or overcast (grumpy) is a better description of how they feel. I grade all weathers from 1 to 10 so that my children can quickly identify and share with me the state of their emotions, without going into too much detail.

Please use weather references for quick communication with jelibeans. Bear in mind that we really can't go into the kind of explanations that marshamallows find useful and natural when we've been concentrating on a task or on a day's work. We really don't want to discuss every item of our day outside the Green Zone of our home once we arrive back.

Some of us may just want to take off all our clothes. Yes, it's a bit embarrassing when others come to visit, but our children don't mean to offend or to be difficult. Very often their inner thermostats are set to burning, and they find clothing in a centrally-heating home just too much to cope with. They often have sensitivities to certain fabrics which makes this worse. So it's best for parents to provide lightweight short-sleeved cotton tops (without labels which scratch) and trackie bottoms, or shorts, for wearing indoors. Bare feet may be easier. Homes should be Green Zones where conventions are met, but personal jellybean needs are also met.

However, it's talking that can take a jelibean over the edge, and that's where this scheme comes into its own. The scheme gives you a shorthand way of communicating with your scared jelibean.

"What kind of a day did you have?" you may ask.

"Green," your jelibean says, and that says it all. Don't push it further, "Green" carries a lot of meaning once your jelibean knows what it means.

"What's the weather?" you ask, as your stressed-out jelibean falls into the car on the way from school.

"Rainy," she may say.

"On a scale of 1-10?"


Don't push for more information. Just hug if hugs are acceptable (sometimes jelibean children don't like hugs. They may just want a chocolate, or whatever. You'll know what changes their weather chart after a while.)

Keep questions brief. Suss out what the shorthand is conveying. Later, after a drink and a snack, when the SYSTEM has turned green again, your jellybean may want to confide that a docking station wasn't available when needed, or that a docking station has found another rocket to dock with and doesn't want your jellybean's rocket any more... but look at this! Look at how much unnecessary parent/child communication hang-ups we're avoiding. Does that look good to you? It looks good, and feels good, and has been good to me.