Barbara is a little black cat with a very expressive face & yellow boots. It’s one of those days when nothing goes right & she has the biggest tantrum. In the build-up to the Wobbler, Barbara doesn’t see her bad mood growing but the worse it gets, the less she wants to play. The Wobbler appears, red & jelly-like, & it gets in the way of any of her friends’ kind attempts to soothe her. At first, Barbara struggles against the Wobbler, then they giggle together, & when they talk, she realises the Wobbler can be unmade & that she can be in charge of her feelings. A feline frolic through a range of emotions & a playful reminder of the power of embracing them all.
All of us, even as adults, can feel overwhelmed by our feelings at times. For children who have experienced relational trauma, the size & strength of the overwhelm can feel very big & frightening indeed. When you have lived with high levels of stress at a young age, it can lead to sensory integration difficulties, hypersensitivity & dysregulated responses. We all have a ‘window of tolerance’ – where our stress levels are manageable & we can stay calm & think properly. Children with relational trauma have a much narrower window & so more easily tip into Wobbles. The double whammy for such children, is that they fear connection with others & find it so hard to make use of support & strategies to regulate & feel better again.
We need to find lots of ways to help these children notice & name different feeling states & to encourage awareness of the things that can help to keep them feeling comfortable in their bodies & able to manage emotional challenges better. ‘Name it to tame it’, as Dan Seigel says. We need to help them trust our intentions to help them when we lend them our calm – as self-regulation is so hard to achieve if we have never experienced co-regulation in nurturing relationships.
Barbara Throws A Wobbler is an engaging resource for inviting curiosity about emotions & what we can do when they feel tricky. The guide to bad moods at the end adds even more colour & humour.