During the previous two weeks, we have explored some techniques for creating connection, injecting playfulness in family life, using meditation and laughter. Sometimes intentional control of one’s body postures and/or laughter meditation will not reset mood. What can you try when these techniques do not create the desired shift? How can you support your kids through difficult events or relationships? (Obviously, we are not talking about severe or clinical depression or the like, which require medical or psychiatric intervention).
One of the most profound gifts you can offer your child is to listen without trying to fix or minimize their feelings. This is more difficult than it sounds because it is difficult to see our kids struggle. The urge to go 911 and engage parental fix-it mode is hard to resist. But, constant parental intervention reinforces a child’s feelings of helplessness and incapacity which breeds a dependency for repeated rescues.
Instead, choose to express compassion for them. Stay calm and supportive. Avoid platitudes like “You’re young,” or “This will pass,” or “I know how you feel.” Most importantly, do not ask them to “stop crying” or “stop making such a big deal” about things. Avoid sarcasm or humor; when a child is upset, these will only make him feel worse, unheard and disrespected.
Compassion allows you to be connect with them. Stay silent and listen. Allow your body language to convey empathy, openness, and willingness to listen. Sit close with your arm around them in attentive silence. This will convey that you are strong enough to be “with” them in the muck of their feelings. When they feel acknowledged and validated, they will hear your vote of confidence for their ability to handle things.
Sometimes, they simply need to vent, to think out loud, and to have a sounding board. Some kids think out loud; they need to hear their thoughts before they can evaluate them and take action. Solutions come later; first comes the turmoil. Yes, the pain is real. But they are stronger and can face the hurt to triumph on the other side. Help them to grow compassionate for themselves, to accept that life is a learning conversation, that mastery takes time and is a circuitous path, not a superhighway. Teach them to develop inner self-talk that is encouraging, patient and confident. This allows them to encompass all of themselves with love even when they are in their muck. Help your child to face his issues, create solutions and develop resiliency.
When family members learn to be kind and accepting of themselves, they automatically become kind and accepting of one another. And that is a goal worth pursuing.