All About Connecting – Episode 31 with MamaManon
Today, I have an interview with an incredible trauma-informed, parenting coach. Her name is Manon. She is French and lives in Australia. She travels around different cities in her van with her five year old daughter, giving workshops and teaching parents about connecting with our children and all of these different ways where we can have a bodily, somatic experience of calm and peace and joy and connection. I really love following her stuff on Facebook and on Instagram. So, I reached out to her and asked if she would come speak with our audience, speak with you guys, all about the challenges of raising kids in general and specifically, children with hearing loss.
She gave us so much beautiful wisdom. It was a very moving episode for me. I learned a lot from it and took a lot out of it. On my own healing journey, I’ve been learning a lot about how our bodies work, how our nervous system responds to difficult situations, to trauma… And recently, I also learned about inner child work, recognizing that within us, within ourselves as adults, we still carry and move through the world with ourselves as a child. Sometimes with some unmet needs, with very difficult memories, or difficult experiences that we are carrying inside of our inner child. How to start to make a connection within ourselves to ourselves as children and bring that message to our inner child that they are not alone, that we can take care of them, that it’s safe now.
The more that I’ve done this work, the more that I’ve come to understand what it was like for me to be a child. I’ve noticed so much growth in my own parenting, and being able to relate to my children truly, truly as people, as funny as that sounds. So, I found this to be very powerful and I wanted to share some of that with you guys.
You know that it’s very important to me to integrate and put together all the different pieces of our life, and all the different pieces of how audiology is affecting our life, whether you are a student of audiology or if you have a child or family member with a hearing loss, or if you are dealing with hearing loss, you know that it’s complicated and it gets into many different parts of your life; Your relationships, your ability to work, your ability to communicate… For this episode, I’d like to ask you to give yourself the time to listen to this episode and enjoy the slower pace of our conversation and take in the messages that Manon shared with us.
I’ll also tell you that because she is in Australia, and I’m in Israel, we coordinated the time. It was 5:30 AM for me here, so, I thought I’d wake up early before my kids woke up, but alas they all joined me. So, you might hear the squeals and laughter and joy from my children throughout the episode, which is quite appropriate. I tried my best to edit out most of the disruptions. I think we’re still going to go with it, because that’s real life. It was actually quite beautiful in the end to have them there because you’ll hear Manon walk me through a little visualization, and having my children there actually made it really moving for me and I hope you’ll do that as well. She also references a meditation that I have, a free download which you can grab at allaboutaudiology.com/meditation. All you have to do is put your email in and you’ll get the meditation sent straight to you. That’s a meditation that I put together in response to a mom that I was talking to about seeing the hearing loss as one part of the child. To see it as one aspect of your parenting experience, even though at times it takes up all of the time and energy and money, it can really drain your resources. This meditation can help you get a little bit of a recharge. So, let’s jump right on into that interview. It was really great and I can’t wait to hear what you think about it.
LS: “Welcome Manon to the All About Audiology podcast. I’m so excited to have you here.”
Manon: “Thank you for inviting me here.”
LS: “Would you start by introducing yourself to our audience and telling them about the work that you do?”
Manon: “Sure. My name is Manon and I was born in France, you might notice my French accent. I used to be a teacher ten years ago, but since I had a baby my life has changed. I have done lots of research on how I could best raise my child. I’ve heard a long time ago, that the way we raise them is influencing them or affecting them for the rest of their lives. So, I took that really seriously in a way. I’ve done lots of research and I got the certification as an Aware Parenting Instructor. I’ve studied supporting of the mothers, sharing that beautiful knowledge that has changed my life in the way I was parenting my daughter. I realized after a year or two of doing that, only providing information about this is how it’s best to do, and it’s best not to do this, I’ve realized that it’s not enough to only provide information. I’ve realized that for myself as well, that even though I had all the right information, I would still do things that I didn’t want to do to my daughter. Things that were done to me when I was a child. You know those moments when you’re triggered and you just lose everything, all your values, right?! I’ve realized that it’s important to heal ourselves and to learn how to regulate so we can stay calm for our children. This is when I studied about somatic experiencing, which is trauma healing at the nervous system level, at the body level. That is becoming a huge part of my work, which is to help mothers in one-on-one to regulate, to heal from the past and to change in an empowering way so they can really be the parents they want to be for their children.”
LS: “That’s such a huge goal. Hahaha. And it’s so important. Can you tell us about this term, somatic experiencing and what does that mean for our listeners and for the work that you do?”
Manon: “Sure. Somatic experiencing was created by Peter Levine. He has asked himself the question, ‘Why don’t animals in the wild not get traumatized even though they get threatened and attacked almost daily? Why do we humans show signs of trauma when stressful events happen to us?’ He has realized, because he had studied the nervous system of all mammals for many years, that we have the same capacity of all mammals to discharge and release trauma after we went through something stressful. If you see in animal videos, if they almost get eaten by a lion, for example, once the lion is gone, you will see their body shaking slightly, trembling a bit, and this is their body, their nervous system releasing the trauma. And most of the time, they just walk away as if nothing has happened.
We can do the same thing. We have the capacity. Our bodies are beautifully made and they have the capacity to do that. To not hold onto the trauma. But we have that very smart cortex there that is stopping us from trusting our bodies. We start shaking, but we say, ‘I shouldn’t shake.’ We start crying but we say to ourselves, ‘I shouldn’t cry.’ So, we stop shaking and crying. We stop our bodies natural healing mechanism and that’s how we get traumatized and we show symptoms which can be migraines, or digestive issues or chronic pains, flashbacks, immune-system issues, and what we do in somatic experiencing is that we’re really helping our clients and ourselves to re-trust the body. To re-learn how to let go of stress after we go through a stressful day but also anything that is bigger than that, any kind of bigger trauma. It’s so empowering.”
LS: “Absolutely. It’s an amazing thing that is happening all over the world, in so many different fields, that people are starting to take it really seriously. The science behind the connection of our minds and body, and really being able to point to here’s how your nervous system really works; anatomical, scientific, and physiological way. That brings on board a lot of people who would in the past think that this is a little too much woohoo, a little too spiritual. But now there’s just data about how we work, like you said, as mammals, as people with bodies.”
Manon: “But you’re right, it is very recent, it’s only in the last twenty to thirty years. The polyvagal theory was developed in the last ten to twenty years about how the nervous system actually works. It’s really recent and we still have so much to discover. We don’t know yet everything and I love that we don’t know everything yet. It’s really the latest research that is showing us how our bodies are amazing and how they are definitely connected to our brain and we can’t just deal with our brain and think our way out of stress. It’s a bodily response.”
LS: “So, once we understand that for ourselves and for all humans, we come to kids and we see they are just the most delightful, little tiny babies that are born and they already have all of that capacity and it’s almost like, for the first two or three years, we really condition the children into all sorts of patterns and conditions that are in their environment. So, specifically, when we talk about children who have hearing loss, they have a different sensory experience receiving information around them in that modality of hearing. So, I wonder if we can dive in to early childhood years, how would we support our kids no matter what their abilities are?”
Manon: “Yeah, absolutely! That’s a big question. Where do I start?! Hahaha. I think specifically for your audience, I would like to very briefly say about how the nervous system works so we can understand ourselves and our children’s reactions better. We know that our bodies are very well made and it’s always trying to protect us. Our nervous system is always trying to protect us. We know about three main states, to simplify it, that we can be in. We can be in a feeling safe and connected kind of space; we call that the ventual vehicle. When we are connected to others, we are connected to ourselves, we feel hopeful, we’re feeling calm and relaxed, then if our system, and I’m saying our system because it starts in the nervous system before it goes into our heads, perceives a cue of danger and it can be anything, I will give examples after. But if there is a cue of danger, then our system to protect us will go into fight or flight. That’s when we start scanning the environment for danger, that’s when we are getting triggered, we’re getting more annoyed, there’s more anger there and if the fight or flight doesn’t work, or if there is a big amount of danger, then we go into a shutdown. It’s just too much for our brain and for our body. We just go into a shutdown, and again, this is to protect us. So, we won’t feel so overwhelmed. So, these are the main three states, to stay safe and connected, fight or flight, or the shutdown.
So, to take an example, children with hearing loss would feel safe and connected with us when we are grounded as well and we are making eye contact with them. Something else that makes them feel safe is when we’ve got a smile on our face, a genuine smile. When we’ve got our head tilted a little bit on the side, this is bringing cues of safety for the system. Touch, nurturing touch, is helping them feel safe and relaxed. Something that can be, for example, a cue of danger for little ones with hearing loss can be a feeling of maybe being left out because they don’t understand exactly what the other kids would be doing. Too much stimulation, trying to read everyone’s lips, background noise, lots of people talking at the same time and they are trying to figure out what is happening, that is a lot for the system. And their system can go into a fight or flight.
When we see them being a bit agitated, having big, wide eyes, being agitated, maybe someone pushed him, being overwhelmed, you can see it in their body. And when that happens, what we can do is go closer to them with grounded energy, help them down to regulate, help them come back to that sense of safety and connection. For us to be able to do that, we need to learn how to regulate ourselves, right? So, that can be the next step. If you want to talk more about it and how we can regulate. Does that make sense?”
LS: “Yeah, absolutely. So, one of the things that has brought me so close to this work is being being a mom and having kids and realizing just how much there is mirrors happening all around you when the little kiddies, all of a sudden, make me have so many memories of being a kid and how it was and all of a sudden, I see myself as a child and then go into that. How would I want to be treated in this situation or remembering how certain adults dismissed my ideas or disregarded what I wanted? And, all of a sudden, I just see it and have so much compassion for how I felt because here’s helpless, tiny little delight. Hahaha.”
LS: “Yeah, I have a five year old, a three year old and a two year old. And yeah, these are two of them. So, the big and little ones, so glad they decided to join us for this. It’s very apropos.”
Manon: “It’s motherhood and life. That’s how it’s meant to be.”
LS: “So, what I learned about about the idea that I cannot change my child state, you know, you can’t just make a baby stop crying like I would say, ‘stop crying!’ That’s not going to work. So, it’s so dependent on my state as a mother and where my head is. If I’m all anxious and tell them, “you need to come down!” That’s not gonna help because I’m also all stressed. I’ve definitely experienced that relationship between how I’m feeling to how my child is feeling. And then in a professional sense, I really learned a lot about how important the parent is for the child’s journey. Two children with very similar diagnosis could have very different experiences of that based on the parents’ reactions. So, I found this work to be so important and people are really responding to it is because there’s so much support, thankfully for children with hearing loss, for how to care for hearing aids, different therapies, all geared towards a child. What about parents, parents of children with hearing loss is a very unique niche that I am constantly trying to reach that audience. I believe that this this work really needs to come into this space. So, that’s why I’m so excited that we’re talking about this. So, yes, please continue.”
Manon: “Wonderful. Well, okay, let’s go towards the the self regulation piece. Yeah. Because, as you mentioned about what about the parents, I also had a little thing about how they can resource themselves, which is similar to your beautiful meditation. But involving the body, the failed sense in it, we’ll see if we get there. Let’s talk about self regulation. Yeah, there are many ways that we can self regulate ourselves as parents and I think you need to practice that by yourself to really feel how it is. Self touch is one of those ways we can regulate. There’s many different ways. I want to invite you and your listeners to take your right hand and put it under your left armpit. So, it’s just under your heart, maybe just on your left side of your left breast, basically next to your heart, right. And your left hand onto the shoulder like this. And here what we’re going to do is feeling the heat of our hands, which is bringing us back to our body. We call that “the hug”.
And I notice that I’m naturally starting to sway from one side to the next. As I’m doing that, this is very soothing. This is what our bodies are used to when we are in our mother’s belly. That gentle rocking, so hugging, feeling the hands on the skin. Rocking is also very soothing. So, you can do that sitting down. You can also rock when you’re standing, which means when you are at the playground, looking at your child or when you’re queuing at the supermarket, right, standing on both feet and really feeling the ground on your feet, unlocking your knees. So, you can feel the gravity and swaying from one foot to the next. Very gently. People will not even notice when you’re doing that, but that is really helping the nervous system to slow down. Another self touch, which is very beneficial, can be on the forehead, one hand on your forehead and one hand behind the back of your head. And again, feeling the touch on your skin. This is bringing the nervous system a sense of support.
Any self touch can be useful. You can put a hand on your heart, one on your belly. We want to listen to our bodies. Sometimes, our body will not want to be touched in some parts. And we want to respect that. So, I invite you to try out what works best for you. Hand on your heart and your belly or behind your head and see what works the best for you.
When we come to breathing, there are lots of recommendations to take a big breath to calm down and I used to give that recommendation too, but it’s actually shown to have the opposite effect. It’s not quite calming, because when we take a big breath, it’s accelerating our heartbeats. Taking a big breath is what we’re trying to do when we’re running, right. So, to calm down, what can be useful, and we can do that with our kids is to blow slowly, for a long time, like if we’re blowing on a candle or raspberry blows. If you want to try that with your children, blowing like on a candle just to make the candle dense without blowing it out. That’s right. I like to do that before bedtime with my daughter.
Now, something that can be great to do with your child is to have her on your back or in your arms and start rocking, like I was talking about, from one foot to the next, feeling your feet on the ground and hear your child’s heart is next to your heart, his nervous system right next to your nervous system and that can be really calming as well. So, here you are calming down together, right, which is really beautiful to do again before bedtime is great to do that.”
LS: “I saw your video on this. It was so, so beautiful.”
Manon: “Now, in the moment, you know how we talked before when our child is getting into bit of a fight or flight or is shut down, and he’s not present anymore. First you want to recognize the signals, right, when a child is in fight or flight we will see it because you will be with wide eyes looking around, maybe agitated, it might have his little body a bit tense, right? He might be looking around really fast and that’s especially for children with hearing loss because they can’t orient to danger through the ears. They will try to orient more with their eyes. So, they will look around a lot fast and when you see that your child is a little bit overwhelmed like that, you will want to go close to them.
Feeling your feet on the ground, so you’re regulating too. And a core regulation exercise that can be good there is that you put your hand on her forehead and another hand, either at the back of her head or in the middle of her back. And we want to have an intention when we touch our children in this way as saying with our hands, “I’m right here with you. I’m right here with you. And you feel a bit overwhelmed right now, but that’s okay. I’m right here.” It can be just a hand on the shoulder. It’s really coming close to help our children realize that yes, we are here in their system to notice those cues of safety so they can calm down. As well as the touch when we are coming next to our children, it can be great to make eye contact with them with your face relaxed or smiling again, as a message of “I’m here.” The tilt of the head is important to bring a sense of safety as well. So, it’s really about having that intention to tell with our whole body, especially children with hearing loss, we read the whole body. If we have a tense face or a blank face, that will give their system a sense of danger. So, we really want to go there with our body as relaxed as we can, saying, “Hey, I’m here for you. I’m here. You’re not alone, and we can calm down together.”
LS: “What an absolutely beautiful approach, to look at the whole entire experience of parenting that isn’t, I’m at the top and you do what I say and you know, the that kind thing that we hear a lot and experience a lot and go into that pattern as well, saying, “Just do what I said or be who I need you to be right now,” instead of just being present with what’s actually happening.”
Manon: “Exactly, and it is about being present in ourselves and for our children.”
LS: “One of the traumatic experiences that has happened along this journey with parents, is the diagnosis, the way that sometimes health providers are not sensitive to what the parents state is at that time. And I was wondering if you could talk specifically about that experience and how to re-frame or kind of heal that experience if it was very painful or very challenging?”
Manon: “Yes. And you’re right. Most of the medical world is not yet trained and doesn’t yet understand how the system reacts to a diagnosis like that. We know that trauma is something that has gone too fast, almost too much or happened too soon for our system to process. We can’t, you know, once the diagnosis is given, there will be usually a state of shock in the system. I’m guessing this is what would be for most parents. And for us to come out of shock, we really want to take the time to sit down with it, to feel into it, to feel the sensation, to feel the pain, to feel the tears, to let the tears flow, to have someone next to us who can be our spouse or friend put their hand on our shoulder and giving us the time to come out of the shock. Our bodies are made to heal. It’s the premise that often those things go too fast. And for the health practitioners out there, all the the doctors the ones that are giving the diagnosis, we want to take the time to allow our clients’ reaction to happen. To allow that support, and allows those tears before we bombard them with information. So, yes, it’s really about slowing everything down so the system can actually process that, that load of information. And then I also want to come into the more resourcing parts, which is what you’ve done with your beautiful meditation. It’s that, yes, there is that diagnosis, but it’s only one part of my child, there is so much around that. So, I want to invite all our listeners maybe to take the time to tune into what they love the most about their child right now.
What is it that you love about your child? Is it his eyes? The joy in his eyes? Is it the joy that he’s bringing to you, is it his fun energy. Look at his little toes, his little fingers and tuning to what you love about your child. And as you’re doing this, notice what happens in your body, in your own body. Notice if there is a sense maybe of relief or relaxation in your muscles. Notice if there is some deeper breathing happening. And I also want to ask you, ‘In which way is your child capable? In which way is your child resilient? In which way is it vibrant?’
And again, as you invite those images of the situations where you’ve seen your child being this capable and resilient and vibrant being that is, notice what happens in your own body. So, your system can actually integrate.
Notice again if your breathing is changing, if there is relaxation in your shoulders and ask yourself, what is the emotion that you’re feeling now as you’re tuning into the beauty of your child. And as you’re connecting with his beauty and his vibrant energy and all the things that you love about him, I’m wondering if there is an image that comes to your mind. It can be anything and everything, it can be an image of your child, it can be a color or light. I invite you to tune into what your system is bringing up as you’re tuning into all that you love about your child. And maybe you might want to draw this image that is coming up for you and have it somewhere in your house, somewhere where you move often. So, you have this reminder always. The positive side and the felt sense of how it feels in your body.
The thing that is important to have both, you hold the grief but also to hold the beauty and the happiness and really allow yourself to go from one to the next. if there is grief there for you, and there might not be again. Holding that in, if there is grief, really take your time, grief is not something that we are over in an amount of weeks or months, no, it can take a long time, it can go and come back. And we really want to keep that as much time as it needs.”
LS: “That was so powerful. I love that. I still can’t share what I felt when you’re doing that. I’m actually looking at my kids over there eating chocolate out of the Nutella jar as we speak.
LS: “at six in the morning. And it’s just such a beautiful image of the kids sitting at the table on their own with their fingers in that jar, just like pure happiness and joy of childhood. I’m just gonna let it happen. Enjoy it. Yeah, it’s like the last bits of the jar. That’s why it’s out just go for it. And as we’re talking about how it feels in my body, I realized that I got very warm in my shoulders, and my in my upper back, all warm like I was wearing a blanket all of the sudden, I felt so warm, which I’ve been cold all morning and now I just like felt that. Then I just got more and more melting throughout my torso, like really this warm thin down regulating, it feels really great.”
LS: “And when you spoke about the image, the image that came to me was more like a texture. And it was like a shimmer, like eye shadow, just something very soft and powdery and shiny. It isn’t like a harsh glitter, it’s just like a sheen.”
Manon: “Yeah, thank you for sharing.
LS: “That’s really very powerful!”
Manon: “It’s powerful to tune into our body.”
LS: “Yeah. I’m going to invite the listeners and I’d love to hear from you guys, what that felt like for you, if you’re if you’re listening to this, where you are? Are you with your kids? Are you on your own? Just take a moment and that’s the thing about meditation, I think it’s a little bit overwhelming for people. It’s like you have to sit on a meditation couch with a meditation Gong and a timer and you’re like, now you’re a hippie. That’s it. It’s like, No, that was meditation. Just breathing for one second and being where you are, being who you are and and there you go. It could happen that quickly.”
Manon: “Yes. And I would say it’s even better because it’s an embodied meditation. And you’re right, it can be just 30 seconds, one minute of tuning into all sensations and that is enough to take us back into the calm. It doesn’t need to be hours.”
LS: ” I love the swing. In my experience, the swing has been a place of great connection because of that back and forth. That’s just a repeated motion that goes on. So, pushing the swing, even watching the kid on the swing has been very therapeutic for me.”
Manon: “Uh huh.”
LS: “So, do you have other specific day to day things that we do as parents, so that kids do, so people can hold on to as an anchor?”
Manon: “There’s two more things that I want to share with you that were actually given to me by a colleague of mine who was a Somatic Experiencing practitioner and she’s deaf herself. She reminded me of how our eyes, when we don’t hear properly, your eyes are working much more to read lips, to read people’s behavior, to orient. So, she is recommending that we find time for your children to raise their eyes and to raise the brain. Because again for little child, trying to understand, to read lips, it’s so much stimuli for the brain. And raise the eyes can be done in a little routine, a moment of connection, which will as well strengthen the attachment with our children. It can be maybe a song. When we close our eyes, mommy can close the eyes and the child can closed his eyes. It can be putting your hand in the shape of a cup just to cover the eyes, your eyes or the eyes of the child, if he’s too young to do it himself. And to just spend a few seconds like this is where his eyes can relax, his body can relax, his brain can rest. You too can cuddle together while you’re doing this, which can be skin to skin, just, you know, nurturing contact.
And that helps the whole body, the whole nervous system resets. It helps the eyes reset, the brain rest, and that can be very beneficial and a little connecting moment that can happen anytime during the day. It can be a little vote in between the parent and the child. And one more thing I want to add, and it’s very true for parents who have children with hearing loss but also for every parent on Earth, is to find a community. To find the people that get us, people who might have similar experiences than us, to really not isolate ourselves. We know in the world of trauma and healing that we are social creatures, and we heal better when we are in the presence of others. We are less traumatized when we have the right support as well. So, it’s tricky in this industrialized world where we all live in separate houses. But I think it’s really making the effort to find other parents who have children with hearing loss. Even if it’s just online to connect, have a chat once a month or being part of a group for finding them and going to the playground together really finding other people that are in the same situation and that gets you and that you can relate to all your children in a different way, in a way that is re-adapted to their capacity of the moment. So, I think the community is a big thing for all of us.”
LS: “Really. I’m very grateful you brought that up. I hope the All About Audiology community has played a role for some parents, I have heard from some of you. It’s so important to not feel alone. It’s so important to have support and know that you’re not the only person who feels how you feel. Last episode was also on parenting. So, we’re kind of doing a little parenting unit. Being able to advocate for yourself and for your child in a medical setting which is quite stressful. But also having that support outside of that, like in a social, other parents setting.”
Manon: “Right. Awesome. Thank you so much. You’re a warrior. I have so much respect for what you’re doing with your children and for the community, for the parents out there. Changing the world one podcast at a time. So important!”
LS: “If people want to find you or work with you, learn about you, where can they find you? What’s the best way to connect with you?”
Manon: “Yes, I’m on Facebook. MamaManon, trauma informed parenting support. On Instagram, it’s mamamanon, I’m sure there is a dash somewhere. If you type mamamanon, you will find it. My website is mamamanon.com. I’ve got online courses and what I’m actually working on a program at the moment, which is about self-regulation and co-regulation going on for all of us out there to know how to down regulate and co-regulate with our children. So, that’s coming up in the next few months. And yeah, thank you so much for this opportunity. I’m so glad I met you in person.”
Thank you again to Manon for such a beautiful interview. You can find her on Facebook and Instagram and really see some of the beautiful videos that she puts out with so many great tips and I really value the work that she’s doing. And I’m glad to introduce you guys to her work as well. Again, if you’re interested in that meditation, it’s a free download over at allaboutaudiology.com/meditation. Let me know how this episode landed for you, if this was something you were interested in, how you felt listening to our conversation. I am always happy to get requests. Last week I interviewed Dr. Kelly Dyson, an audiologist who is also a tinnitus specialist. And we had a lot of interesting conversations about tinnitus, which you guys have patiently been waiting for. I appreciate that. And she’s @thetinnitusdoctor on Instagram. If you want to go and get a sneak peek. I’m looking forward to your comments, to your reviews, to your questions for the All About You episode. If you’re new around here, every other episode is all about you. Your responses, your questions. And that wraps up Episode 31, Welcome To Season 3!
I’m Dr. Lilach Saperstein and this is the All About Audiology podcast.