Using Guided Imagery With Your Child
By Caron Goode
Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. —Goethe
Guided imagery is a dynamic way to increase a child’s chances for successful development of inner talents and personal resources. Parents, teachers and other service providers can use imagery with confidence to increase a child’s mental focus, help clarify values, increase study efficiency or instill other successful traits.
What is guided imagery?
Imagery is the ability to visualize or mentally create pictures and feelings. You can use this technique to empower children’s success, joy and balance the same way an athlete envisions winning.
Thoughts and feelings are not separate from each other. A thought triggers a biochemical response in your body. A feeling or sensation triggers a corresponding chemical response in the brain. Imagery lets children empower their awareness and direct their mind/ body into skill development and positive emotional states.
Mind-body science has shown us that thinking about running a race can trigger the same bodily feelings as the physical act of running. Obviously, running the race gives you the elation, physical exercise and tension release. What imagining the race beforehand can do for you and children is set the stage by focusing specific goals and preparing the physical body. In the same way, imaging successful coping skills can empower your intention of joy and anchor triumph in your body.
Guided imagery is the method of creating pictures in the mind accompanied by sights, sounds, sensations and feelings. It directs the mind and body to the optimal inner state for physical and emotional healing. Positive images specifically calm the nervous system, strengthen the immune system and trigger healing activity.
When we daydream, we allow our minds to free-flow to places where we want to be or to spaces that bring us feelings of joy, comfort, safety and peace. Guided imagery helps us reach these places when we feel the need to be there, like during times of stress and frustration, childhood nightmares, trauma or abuse memories or just general tension.
View imagery as daydreaming with a purpose. Help children use their imaginations to see a picture in their mind. Imagery stimulates the children’s senses to make their participation more real and active by adding the props.
How effective is imagery?
Health field specialists use guided imagery to reconnect people to pastoral, peaceful images with accompanying sights, tastes, smells and feelings. This produces a relaxation response and strengthens the immune system. Specifically with cancer patients, successful imagery gives back to patients a measure of control, enhancing their immunologic response to stress and diminishing anxiety and fear about treatments.
Guided imagery helps children of all ages build confidence and self-esteem and strengthen their resources. Children can learn to express feelings they are generally unable to verbalize especially associated with stress or trauma. Imagery has been useful in particular for:
• calming hyperactivity
• helping children cope with a death in the family
• overcoming anxiety
• soothing panic episodes
• healing psychosomatic complaints
• developing sensitivity
The reason for this success lies in children’s ability to close their eyes and use their imaginations to see another viewpoint, feel more deeply or gain perspective on the overall situation.
© Caron B. Goode
Caron Goode, Ed.D., is a parenting expert who speaks and writes about how parents can nurture their children’s gift. Go to Inspired Parenting to find out your parenting style, order Nurture Your Child’s Gift: Inspired Parenting and sign up for the online parenting magazine.