Like many parents, I simply not aware that a child’s bodily arousal system is still developing after birth and that it is supersensitive to stressful experiences such as being left to cry. She cannot bring her autonomic nervous system back into balance – but your love and comfort will.
It is up to me to bring everything back into balance. Comforting a screaming child will activates her vagus nerve – slow down and relax of the autonomic nervous system. The more responsive I am, the greater regulation of her body arousal systems will be, and the more long-lasting the effects.
A distressed, upset child needs my compassion, soothing and physical comfort to bring her dysregulated body and brain systems back into balance. When I soothe my distressed child, I regulate her autonomic nervous system. If I consistently soothe my child’s distress over the years, and take any anguished crying seriously, highly effective stress response system can be established in her brain. This will enable her to cope well with stress in later life.
Research shows that if a child’s need for comfort is not met with emotional responsiveness and soothing, this system can, over time, become wired for bodily hyperarousal. This can make life a stressful and exhausting affair. In later life, an over-sensitive stress system can leave a child vulnerable to depression, anxiety disorders, and stress related physical illness.