She sobbed heaving sobs into my chest as I wrapped my arms around her. Her strong emotions spilled out as her tears soaked my shirt. I held her for the longest time; saying nothing, just listening and holding space for her to communicate to me her inner-most thoughts through her upset.
A thought flashed through my mind in that moment about how much I love it when my children have a meltdown. I didn’t always but I have learned over the years that so much good can come from them if I am accepting of the feelings that surface and hear the messages in their screams.
My daughter is not giving me a hard time, she is having a hard time. And even if I feel like she IS giving me a hard time, it is important for me to realise that my hard time comes from my own insecurities and triggers from my past. They are my feelings to own and deal with. I am the adult and I must take responsibility for how I handle those feelings.
It is difficult as a parent to hear your child in distress, but what’s even harder is when, despite their obvious emotional turmoil, they refuse your comfort. That rejection can instantly make a parent feel like a failure. Comforting pain and hurt is supposed to be part of our parenting role, isn’t it?
So what’s a parent supposed to do if their child doesn’t want their support when they are feeling low? And more importantly, why on earth would they not want their parent to help them when they are so distressed?
Supporting an emotional child and helping them learn to cope with their emotions is a complex task. It is important that in our efforts to provide children with skills and techniques to become more self-regulatory when they are feeling emotional, we do not inadvertently invalidate their emotions or cause our children to feel abnormal simply because they feel things more deeply than others.
I once read that the teenage years can be likened to the toddler years. Both stages of life are a time of significant developmental change. Toddlers and teens alike experience significant body and mind development that can have them behaving in ways you have never seen. Just as they are figuring out who they are, we, as parents, struggle to understand the child we once thought we knew inside out.
But the thing is, that is what they need from us most of all; to understand. The way we interact with our young children, the words we use, the intonation in our voice and even our body language can have a huge impact on whether they will feel comfortable talking to us about the big issues they will inevitably face as teens. If we are not empathetic and understanding to the ‘little things’ they face in their early years (which are actually big things to them) then the chances are they will have a hard time opening up about the big things when they grow.
When we make the decision to provide an experience for our children that we feel will enrich their lives and bring them joy, happiness and fond memories, we really need to take a moment to stop and ask ourselves: Who is this experience for really? Is it more about satisfying our own need to see our children engaged in meaningful play? Do we seek to gain more from the experience than our children and if not, have we done everything we can to ensure they will not become too overwhelmed with the nature of the experience?
We have been through our fair share of sibling toy fights with our daughters’ fiery personalities and close age gap. Thankfully, since following the wise advice of Janet Lansbury and the RIE parenting philosophy, we are now seeing less and less of these battles as our children are both developing in emotional maturity and have now had significant practice at working through conflict before it gets to the kind of all in brawls we have been used to in the past.
But what do you do as a parent when your children enter the ring for a wrestling match over a toy? Whilst it is important that they are given every opportunity to work through the conflict themselves, they do require parental presence and guidance to help keep them safe. Parental support will also give them the confidence to see the conflict through and find their own resolution. Continue reading →
We tried in earnest to be mindful of the children; their routines and their sensitivities, but unfortunately we were not always at the top of our respectful parenting game during this period. Occasionally we put our needs and wants ahead of our children’s, ensuring no one’s need or wants were actually met.
We ran into trouble with one particular social event (Christmas lunch, no less) at which our children really struggled to relax and enjoy themselves in a
new environment. With the benefit of hindsight we have devised a plan to help our children cope more confidently when placed in unfamiliar places in unfamiliar circumstances.Continue reading →