• Sixteen-month-old Jack is at the doctor’s office for his checkup and is afraid of getting a shot. His mother, Estee, wants to help him lower his anxiety (Dial Down).
• Estee acknowledges and validates Jack’s fear by saying in a comforting voice, but with a long frown on her face, “I know that the shot hurts, but only for a moment!” As soon as the shot is given, Estee smiles and says reassuringly, “All done! Let’s go home, have lunch, and play your favorite game.” Jack stops whimpering, looks at his mother’s face and starts to calm down.
• What can we learn from this example? Estee showed Jack that she understood his fear of shots by reflecting back some aspect of his feelings through her words and facial expressions. She did this by Dialing Down his fear before the shot, through her calm voice and sad expression.
• After the shot was over, she reframed his experience by uplifting his mood with a higher-pitched voice and an upbeat expression on her face (Dial Up). Jack expended less energy on fear because his mother showed him how to successfully deal with a stressor and how to calm himself and recover more quickly.
• Jack learned that he was able to tolerate his distress without becoming overwhelmed.
• Mary observes that her six-month-old daughter, Olivia, has been fussy during afternoon feedings. Mary first tries to calm Olivia by playing soothing music, but Olivia does not seem to calm down.
• Mary continues to try to calm Olivia by feeding her differently, but nothing seems to work. Mary starts to notice that Olivia might be sensitive to bright light so she lowers the blinds in Olivia’s room during feeding (Dial Down). She is delighted to find that Olivia calms down when the light (stressor) is reduced.
• The following day, Mary dims the light again by adjusting the blinds in Olivia’s room prior to feeding. She is again pleased to find that Olivia does not become fussy. Mary has successfully identified the stressor!
• Mary puts a dimmer on Olivia’s bedroom light switch so she can dim (Dial Down) the light at night when reading stories before bed or even when playing during the day.
• Mary’s ability to empathetically observe, identify, and take action when Olivia was distressed taught Olivia that her mother is able to help comfort her from a stressor (Dial Down). Eventually, Olivia will be able to find ways to identify her own stressors so that she can learn to self- soothe and stay calm and alert.
Dial Up and Dial Down can be a fun yet powerful tool for identifying, responding to, and managing our reactions to stressors. These easy words can be used and shared as a family to help one another Dial Up or Dial Down.