Sometimes I think we adults have incredibly strange ways in which we communicate with our children from dismissing their feelings; by telling them something is ok, when to them it clearly isn’t, to hushing their cries and attempting to distract them rather than comforting them and listening to them.
As a parent I try to put myself in my children’s shoes. I try to remember what it feels like to be so little with emotions so big. I imagine how I would respond to being ignored, hushed and distracted rather than listened to or even comforted- after all, my children are humans in small packages, not robots with no emotional range.
It’s funny- even though I feel so strongly about listening to children I also find myself engaging in the practices I don’t agree with. Patterns are so deeply rooted and so hard to break, its like a seed was planted and it’s impossible to halt its growth but that isn’t going to stop me from trying!
From infancy I lovingly hushed my babies when they cried, – I tried to imitate the white noice they would have found comforting in my womb but when is it time to exchange the hush for listening? At one or five? When they are having big feelings or when they are in pain? Do we hush then when they try to talk to us instead of trying to understand their cries?
The other day my children had an argument- a daily and truly exhausting occurrence that leave me feeling like pulling my hair out of my head at the moment!
I was sitting working when it all came to a head and a loud thump was heard followed by the painful scream of a 4 year old. I ran to my son and I picked him up in my arms, I held him tight and swayed from side to side- I gentle hushed as I’ve always done. My son kept trying to talk but realistically a kid in pain who feels unfairly treated by his 7 year old sister, 30 min before bedtime, make little sense and it sounded a bit like “aaaaghhjHjhhHhhVgTfNNBBjnllsnGggggccvn mummnnnmnnmmmy iiiiiiiiikiaaaaaaaaalallll” so I hushed.
Until my son had stopped crying I continued to hush but by then he looked at me in annoyance and said “why are you not listening to me MUMMY?” And although I had no clue what the kid was trying to tell me I hadn’t really made an effort to let him know that.
I just hushed and hushed and as a result he felt unheard. It wouldn’t have cost me anything to simply say “buddy as soon as we have cried all the tears mummy can hear you and help you”
To just let him know that I was wanting to listen but that calming down was the first step for me to be able to do that.
Then of course we have the concept of ignoring our babies cries! This is a concept I cannot agree with. It feels so alien to me to ignore the cries of our children as part of teaching them life lessons we feel are crucial such as sleeping like an adult at the age of 6 months.
What are we really teaching them when we ignore them? That they do not deserve to be heard? That their voices do not matter? That their emotions isn’t our concern?
And then there is distraction, which is one done with good intentions but still, what are we teaching our children when we instantly try to distract them away from their feelings and how is this helping them develop emotional regulation?
if I’m upset I don’t want to look at a pretty light or get handed a toy- when I’m upset I want to be heard and feel comforted!
I broke my foot a few weeks back and I can absolutely conclude that looking at a shiny car through the window would not have made my pain any less!
Cuddles and frozen peas however, they helped tremendously.
In a world where children’s mental health is declining rapidly, is it not time we simply take a step back and consider how much we actually listen to our children? How much they feel heard and feel that their voice matter?
In a world where too many young lives are lost, we need to change and let children be heard, we need to really listen to what they are telling us and make sure they know that to us, what they say matters. Their voices matter!
So hear those cries, listen to their words and instead of focusing on the pretty lights, let’s focus on what our mini humans are trying to tell us!