I don’t know how to slow it down, my mind’s racing from chasing pirates. . . the silliest things flap around in my brain, impossible schemes swim around.
–Nora Jones song, Chasing Pirates
I can so identify with Nora Jones as she belts out….”and I don’t know how to slow it down.” In fact I am playing that song as I type here. I think our kids feel this way often too! Their little minds get so filled up with thoughts and so distracted by multiple environmental stimuli. Then the limbic brain gets involved and sets off that fight or flight response. Pretty soon they appear to be so jumpy and unfocused and you can feel their energy scattered about in every direction. You can tell by the wiggle, by the constant fidgeting, by the irritation and edginess, by the whining, by the “wired” running around and by the inability to sit still for more than a few seconds. When this happens, you can bet your child’s mind has been invaded with some mind pirates!
First, what are mind pirates? Mind pirates are those stressful thoughts, or any bothersome thought that increases stress in the body and mind or causes upset emotions. (Here’s the link to another one of my other blogs on Mind Pirates: http://wp.me/p2BJYZ-91). Our first step in working with mind pirates is to identify them. Knowing what sorts of thoughts get in our way helps us to take note and begin to think differently. Mind pirates cause us to feel bad. So….the first clue that we have been hijacked by a mind pirate is that our body or our emotions do not feel good.
When your child begins to understand the link between her stressful thoughts and stressful feelings or tension sensations in the body, then she can begin to have power over them and then begin to relax her body and her mind.
Here’s a fun way to explore the idea of mind pirates with your child. First, introduce the concept of mind pirates.
1. What is a mind pirate? Any thought that doesn’t feel good to think. Thoughts that seem to run round and round, stealing our peace of mind. Thoughts that cause us to tense up and feel stressed out, unfocused or have upset feelings or emotions.
2. What do mind pirates do?
- steal your feeling good
- cause stress and tension in the body
- create feelings of fear, sadness, anxiety, anger, and any other “not good” feeling
- scatter your focus
- make you want to wiggle
- make your body feel all scattered
- make you hold your breath and tense up
3. What do mind pirates sound like?
- black and white thinking: clues to these pirates are the words “always” and “never”
- assumptions: thinking that you can tell what other people’s thoughts are when they haven’t told u
- name calling: labeling others or yourself
- dark, grumpy thoughts: all sorts of negative thoughts
- blaming thoughts: blaming others instead of speaking using “I messages” such as I see it… or I feel…
For a bigger discussion on mind pirates, here’s a book I love on positive thinking for kids. Instead of mind pirates, they call “automatic negative thoughts “ants.” It still will provide lots of fuel for discussion and deeper understanding.
Want a fun way to explore the mind pirates that your child is experiencing? Try using the pirate figurines below. I found these at the online toy store, Magic Cabin, (if you click on the picture, it will take you to the site). Kids love that they can push the bottom and the figurine collapses. I like to “make the mind pirates do a funny dance” and to talk about how when we find and recognize a mind pirate, the mind pirate loses power over our feelings and we can begin to choose another more positive thought instead.
Next time your child is feeling their mind racing like they are chasing pirates or next time your mind races, pause and take a deep breath. Model for your child and tell her what you are doing. Let her see what you were thinking, share it out loud, and then show her how you pause and breathe to make your mind pirate “walk the plank.” When you see your child struggling, model it if she is really struggling or caught in an emotional response, or ask her to pause with you and relax together.
Ahoy Matey’s—here’s to making those mind pirates walk the plank and re-covering peace of mind!!