The book Trauma Through a Child’s Eyes: Awakening the Ordinary Miracle of Healing, by Peter Levine and Maggie Kline, is an incredible resource for understanding and supporting trauma responses in children.
One of my favorite resources in this book is a collection of poems that help children understand their nervous system’s flight/fight/freeze responses through the likes of characters like Charlie Coyote, Rapid T. Rabbit, and Oscar Opossum. This is an important understanding for all children to have about their bodies, so that they can come to rightfully view big + strong emotions as their body’s attempt to keep them safe… and then to see that they have the power to choose how to respond to and have compassion for those feelings.
Here I have adapted the first poem in the set to connect it back to mindfulness. This is a great tool for Grades 1 – 5.
Scary Things Hairy
By Peter Levine and Maggie Kline (and added to by Kate)
Understanding Fight-Flight-Freeze Responses
A long time ago, before there were cars
Before we had TV… people watched stars.
We huddled together inside of a cave
It was cold, it was dark, and we had to be BRAVE.
We had to stay hidden, outside it was scary,
With saber toothed tigers and other thing hairy.
They tracked us down when out we’d go
‘Cause they could run fast, and we ran too slow.
Sometimes that hairy, giant-toothed bunch
Pounced down upon us and has us for lunch (ugh)!
We found fire and then we had heat
But still it was hard to get something to eat.
So we invented weapons and tools
Then we could start making some of the rules.
With weapons and tools we went out in the sun
We hunted and gathered and even had fun!
And when the saber-tooth tiger came near
We chased him away by throwing our spears.
Now it’s time for you to pretend
That you live in the wild with your family and friends!
Feel the strength in your legs and the spear in your hand
As you chase the saber-tooth over the land.
Can you feel it right now, that spear in your hand?
What’s it like when you throw it, where does it land?
Throw it right now with all that you’ve got.
Feel the power in your ARM; like a giant sling shot.
Feel the power in your LEGS; it grows as you run.
Your legs are strong and jumping is fun,
Do you get the feeling your legs are like springs
When you chase a tiger and other big things?
What does it feel like inside when you’re big and you’re strong?
When you can chase animals all day long?
It’s lots more fun than when they’re chasing you
Or maybe you think that might be fun too!
But now most of our worries aren’t about saber-tooth beasts
We’re stressed about homework, not becoming a feast.
So we thank our bodies for helping us hide, run, and fight,
And then take a deep breath and remember that we’re loved, safe, and alright.
When we breathe slowly to tell our brain there’s no hairy creature,
Our bodies discover they don’t need those protective features.
Then we can use our brilliant brains