Here are three everyday scenarios that highlight areas where we could be mindful about how we can facilitate open and honest communication between our children and us.
Scenario 1 : It hurts, I can feel it. Don’t deny it, help me heal it. Child: “I fell down. It’s hurting.” Parent: “Nothing happened. Don’t cry like a baby. You are a big brave boy.”
The child thinks: “I am in pain. I wish you could understand. Why did I come to you?” What we could say instead: To the younger child: “Come, sit on my lap. Show me where it is paining. Did you get scared because you fell down?” To the older child: “Looks like it’s hurting you. Would you like me to put some medicine?”
When parents show empathy, which means connecting with the child’s feelings, the child feels heard and understood. This also teaches them how to recognise and express their own feelings in the future. By doing this, we build their emotional intelligence. Knowing you understand their pain (physical and emotional), builds a close connection between you and your child.
Scenario 2: Win or lose life’s not fair. But when I’m upset, please be there. Child: I am so angry/sad. I really wanted to win. Parent: “It’s okay. You cannot always win. Life’s like that. Next time you will win” Child thinks: “I know life is like that but I am feeling so bad. I wish you would understand how I am feeling right now.”
What we could say instead: I can see how much you were longing to win. Seems like you are feeling really disappointed?
I know how hard you worked for this. We don’t like to see our children hurt so we try to toughen up them by giving philosophical responses. Children feel worse when their feelings are dismissed. We can prepare our children for the world more effectively by naming feelings and allowing the child to experience them. A child who feels heard will always come back to you with his joys and sorrows.
Scenario 3: When the sides are ‘them’ and ‘me’ …. ‘Me’ is the side on which you should be! Child: “My teacher scolded me.” Parent: “You must have done something wrong.” Child thinks: “You never take my side. You always think I am at fault.” What we could say instead To a younger child: You are feeling bad about it?
To an older child: That must have been embarrassing for you? Or even - What happened? Tell me more about it (In a gentle tone) We often believe that adults are always right and hence defend the other adult without even finding out more about what happened. If the child feels that you may not accept what they are saying is true, they will be hesitant to come and tell you, even if they are being harmed. Children need to feel that we are on their side if we want them to continue sharing things with us. If they do need to be corrected, we can always find a time to do that when the child is not overwhelmed with feelings. Children feel secure and confident when they know their parents are open to listening to them and will understand and support them. Do read more scenarios next week in part 2 of this trilogy series.
Author: Parenting Matters Team is happy to share these messages from their Learn Laugh Listen Parenting Campaign 2018. To know more and read parenting articles, look us up www.parentingmatters.in