Monday, March 3, 2014

3 Tips to Avoid Invalidating Your Childs Feelings

3 Tips to Avoid Invalidating Your Childs Feelings...

(guest post by Tangee Veloso-Pueblos)

Before my son was born, I had been doing a lot of research.

Research on home births, co-sleeping, breast-feeding, attachment parenting, cloth diapering, organic bedding, you name it.

My husband and I wanted to create the most conscious, sustainable, natural and non-toxic way to bring our son into the world.  And then before we knew it, our son was born at home with our midwives, Elizabeth Bachner and Callie Clark, my mom, my sister, our dog and two cats.

My husband delivered our son and it was the most amazing experience (it’s no wonder that my husband now has a birth tub rental business for families)!

So now that our son was born, the next natural step to me was to find tools and resources on how to guide our son in the most loving and nurturing way that encouraged connection.

After all, there is no handbook that is given to new parents on how to become one!  Plus, living next door to a mother that used yelling as a way to communicate to her children activated me into motion to find something close enough to a manual.

And that’s when I discovered the infamous book that I have mentioned in previous articles called “Connection Parenting – Parenting Through Connection Instead of Coercion, Through Love Instead of Fear” by Pam Leo.  I continue to highlight and share my gratitude towards this book because this was the seedling that planted the concept of Family Love Gathering that soon sprouted into what Family Love Village is today.

One of the topics that was discussed in the book was how invalidating your child’s feelings can create disconnection.

It is not only mentioned in this book but such philosophies as, Emotional Intelligence (the understanding of one’s feelings which enable a person to not only succeed in life, but to have self-awareness, empathy, self-confidence, and self-control).

Both resources share how invalidation can not only cause disconnection between the parent and the child but can cause the child to detach from how they process their feelings which can unfortunately continue on into adulthood.

What inspired me to write about this topic was a recent conversation that my son had with his nanny about him seeing ghosts.  I wasn’t alarmed at the least.  In fact, when I heard the story, I was very touched.

It was in deed quite the charming conversation that went as follows:

Son: You know ghosts only come out in the dark? They don’t like light.
Nanny: Who told you about ghosts?
Son: My spirit within me.
Nanny: Are the spirits kind to you?
Son: Yeah
Nanny: Do they visit you?
Son: Yeah Lolo and Rhonda

Lolo is my husband’s dad who passed away back in 1994 and Rhonda was a friend of ours that had just recently passed away last year. I have always suspected that my son could see ghosts (actually I feel that most children can have that ability but can sometimes lose it as they get older).  My son even talks about an older brother that he dreamt about that he now “pretends” to play with.

For me, I believe in spirits. I believe that we are all of the same energy and that once we leave the body, we transition into another form of energy. But this is just my take on life.

The whole point of bringing up this conversation is because in most cases, parents would most likely feel uncomfortable with the the thought of their child talking to ghosts. And in most cases would even say what they are experiencing is ridiculous or silly – that ghosts aren’t real and possibly even go as far as getting upset with their child for talking about that nonsense.

Well ghosts aren’t the only things that can make a parent want to undermine a child’s experiences.  And unfortunately it usually happens in the day-to-day emotions that a child feels.

Some examples can be:

1. When a child cries.
From the time a baby is born, the normal reaction to when an infant  cries is to gently shush them.  I think as adults we are uncomfortable  with the general emotion of crying, especially when we hear a baby  cry.  What  tends to be the normal reaction is to try and calm them  down.

Well as the child continues to grow and continues to  explore their world, emotions and reactions can get more intense and  unfortunately some adults may tend to think the child is overreacting  and want to say “Calm down.  There’s nothing to cry about”.

Have  you noticed that even as an adult, when people try to soothe you, you  hear them say “Don’t cry.  It’s ok.”? Yet crying is a healthy release and  is very much needed in order to self-regulate the brain.

2. When a child gets injured.
The first initial reaction for most parents is to want to reassure the  child and make the pain go away.  A common phrase that most adults  say when they see a child fall down or scrape their knee is “Oh you’re  ok.” This can confuse the child though because what they are feeling IS pain yet they’re being told otherwise which teaches the child to ignore their feelings, to basically numb the pain.

3. When a child is scared.
Whether a child is scared of the dark because of a “monster  underneath the bed” or even scared when an adult is pretending to be  a monster, a lot of times adults tend to discredit the child’s fear by  saying things like “There’s nothing to be afraid of” or “I was just playing.  Stop being such a scaredy cat!”

When we don’t allow children the opportunity to express their emotions, we are disabling them to truly feel.  As a result, what a child is really hearing from us is that they are not valid, not worthy and perhaps not even lovable.  Unfortunately what ends up happening is that the child learns to hide their feelings.

Children learn that they can no longer trust in your ability to keep them safe, to be heard and understood.  This not only causes disconnection from you but from their own innate ability to feel which can later cause them to numb their feelings as an adult.

So what are some examples of ways that we can show our children that they can trust in us to support them through challenging moments?

Here are a few tips on what you can say:

1. “Let it all out.” My husband and I have been saying this to our son since he was very young.  By allowing him the space to let out his feelings, he feels safe knowing that he is being supported and comforted through the tears.

2. “That must’ve hurt.  I can see that you’re sad.  What can we do to make you feel better?” This allows the child to know that you understand she’s hurting and by asking them how they can make it feel better, gives them a chance to find ways to heal and self-soothe while you’re still there to comfort them instead of you trying to always fix it (which adults sometimes tend to do when they see a child in the throes of emotions, is fix it themselves before allowing the child the chance to develop problem-solving skills).

3. “It must’ve been scary seeing me act like a monster.  I see that it upset you.  What other games would you like to play?”  This lets the child know that you are empathetic to his feelings and by asking him what he would rather do brings child-led play into affect.

Here’s a great excerpt about validation from an article by Naomi Aldort, “Helping Children Resolve Emotional Hurts”:

“When validated and listened to, children unload emotional upsets in their own creative ways. It is important to allow crying to take its  full course (while giving the child our full attention) and to develop attentiveness to tantrums and rage expressions…

When we face behavior in our children that is upsetting to us, we  have two choices. We can respond from our own fear (which may lead to words and acts that invalidate) or we can empathize with the child (which is a response of love)”.

So whether it’s being supportive and developing trust as our children go through their emotions or perhaps even sharing about a strange topic (such as ghosts), when we are able to come from a genuine place of compassion and understanding towards our children’s needs, upsets and fears, the more we are able to fill their love cup.

Through our observations, by asking questions and with authentic listening, it is in this space where we are able to create more connection with our children. Thus, embedding more harmony within the home while raising emotionally healthy, compassionate, and confident adults.


Ashley & the Gang @ Life Balance Community...