Spotlight on Sara Moskowitz, Founder of Sacred Roots
Meet Sara Moskowitz, founder of Sacred Roots Consulting, mom to Ari and my dear friend of nearly twenty years. Sara is genuine, wise and a wealth of information for parents in all stages of their journey. Through a combination of neuroscience, psychology and intuition Sara helps families find ease as she guides them through the unexpected aspects of parenting. I have learned so much from Sara and I know that you will love her as much as I do. Read on for more and head to Sacred Roots for amazing resources or to book a consult.
You have been a transformative person in my life and I know Sacred Roots is going to offer unique support to so many. Tell us about you and your journey to starting Sacred Roots.
It's funny you mention this. I'm not even sure if I've told you this, but it was one of our conversations that sparked the ideas for Sacred Roots! We'd been talking about so many of the aspects of my background and I realized that by combining them, there was so much opportunity to help parents understand the process of their children's development. This work draws from my degrees in neuroscience, teaching, and social work, plus my post-graduate training in somatic experiencing. The result is that I can guide parents through a science-based approach to bringing a little more peace into their family system.
We've had many conversations about the importance of understanding your nervous system. Can you tell us more about this?
Yes! First of all, when the words "nervous system" get introduced and people start talking about neuroscience, that can feel kind of intimidating and abstract. But everyone is actually an expert in their own nervous system. Each person has a unique way that they are wired to interact with our world. Physically, the nervous system consists of the brain and all of the nerves that signal back and forth between the body and mind. In practice… this is the system that sets the tone for whether you are ready to play, eat, sleep, fight, or cry!
Understanding the nervous system is the key to understanding why, for example, the Rose & Rex "Positive Language Guide" is so effective.
When we accurately attune to our children's nervous systems, we are basically telling them that we fully see and understand the state they're in.
Say your child is what we call a “dysregulated” state – one where they are fearful or crying or angry and can’t process those emotions on their own. Once your child feels "seen," and realizes that your own nervous system is regulated even when they are experiencing their distress, it gives them implicit permission to return back to a calm state. If you, their trusted adult, can witness their experience and still be okay, they must be able to be okay too.
I love your mission of guiding moms and families to find regulation and ease. What are some tips you have for new parents? What would you say to a new mom who feels like a "different person" after having a baby?
Ooh. I would want to make sure that the new mom has an understanding of what happens inside her body during a stress response. This can be really destigmatizing - when people receive education around the states of the nervous system, it can be so much less personal and less of a "failure" to be a certain way (angry, irritable, anxious, etc.). My inner scientist also loves spreading the word on this, because these states can be perceived as something difficult to deal with, and I love that there are actually scientifically based ways to work through trauma and anxiety.
An example on this: I had a client who was alarmed to find out that upon becoming a parent, she was irritable most of the time and couldn't access a space of connection to her family that she had before. Upon learning that irritability is the first sign of "fight or flight" (specifically, the fight response), it made sense that she couldn't feel as much connection (we are not wired to be social under threat). We were then able to use some quick interventions to settle her nervous system activation from fight mode to rest/digest mode. Within a matter of a few weeks of practice, she was able to SENSE the moments where she felt the irritability emerge, apply her intervention and settle back down. Not only does she now feel more like herself in her family, but she models for her kiddos what to do under stress.
As I said earlier, everyone's system is totally unique, so figuring out what your go-to stress response is and then coming up with a plan for it is a really personal pursuit. If you've been in therapy or have awareness around your patterns already, feel free to brainstorm on your own. If you don't know where to start (which makes sense - our society isn't set up to do a lot of education around this!), I do offer one-hour consults to create custom stress-response plans. Feel free to email me or find me on instagram if this resonates!
We've talked about play as a tool for bonding and healing. Can you share more of your thoughts about how play supports attachment and connection?
I hinted above at the different states of the nervous system. We have three main ones that can combine in different forms. In colloquial terms, these are referred to as rest/digest, fight/flight, and freeze. More than one state can be activated at the same time - so rather thinking about being in only one state, think of them as three dimmer switches that can all be on at different levels. The higher a dimmer switch is turned on, the more "tone" there is in that part of your nervous system.
When we play, we have a combination of two states that both have the dimmer switch pushed up. There is some tone in our fight/flight system, which gives us the energy to play. We also have tone in our rest/digest system, which directs our bodies to being social. Depending on the rhythm of the play, we'll move back and forth between these states of activation and connection. It's like a workout in many ways!
By playing with our children, we are teaching their bodies to flow through emotions and states of activation.
(And a note: if you've ever watched siblings go from playing to totally beating each other up in three seconds, that means the balance between their social engagement got out of balance and all they were left with was the fight/flight. Even elements of sibling rivalry can be explained through this!)
What are three pieces of advice you would share with families as they navigate the impacts of COVID-19?
- Let this be a window for compassion for your kids! Everything that children try is basically new to them, whereas you’ve had plenty of practice with most of the world as an adult. Now, you are new at navigating this new world. Be curious about what it's like to have a totally new experience (including all of the frustration and overwhelm that can come with it) to add a whole layer of understanding to how your children navigate their world.
- Use this time to learn about your stress responses. Be mindful of the situations where your system gets dysregulated and make a plan for those times. By identifying and owning your stress, you take any pressure off of your children for feeling like they have to manage it for you.
- Be honest about what emotions you are experiencing. I totally understand not wanting to be stressed or show big emotions in front of your kiddos, but they’re so observant that they usually sense your emotions even if you’ve pushed them away. Your child will not be overwhelmed by your stress if they perceive that you are able to take care of yourself and regulate your own nervous system. In fact, it will even help model for them how to cope with their own stresses.
For more, follow Sara on Instagram HERE!
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