7 things children do instead of saying they aren't ok.
That's the thing about growing up - there's an awful lot of it to do. We're all works in progress but for children, that's especially true.
The human brain isn't considered fully mature until around the mid 20's but synaptic connections can actually be formed at any age - that's why you can still learn to dance or speak Spanish at 85!
However at the heart of it is this; the younger your child is, the less able they are to understand, interpret and manage their big feelings. So instead of words, they communicate their not okness in different ways by;
clinging to you
pushing you away
having a tantrum
complaining of physical pains
And what do they need when they do these things? Just our empathy and presence.
Even when it appears to be over something of little importance.
It's our job as parents to teach them that this will pass, that they can learn to not feel overwhelmed by their big feelings.
The science behind this behaviour? One of the last parts of the brain to fully mature is the prefrontal cortex, also known as the social brain. This area helps us to do the really clever stuff like plan ahead, self-regulate, reflect and be logical. So you can imagine when we don't have full access to these skills, life can be a pretty overwhelming experience. They need you and your oh-so clever prefrontal cortex to do it with them. To find the words, provide comfort and be able to regulate your own emotions (which isn't always as easy as it sounds when faced with a full blown tantrum. or snotty eye rolling at every turn) It's important to say that this isn't the same as being permissive or giving children everything they want but it is responding with empathy to their distress.
It's also worth thinking about some of the behaviours that adults often exhibit when under stress.
Becoming more needy
pushing people away
lashing out - verbally or physically
Experiencing pyschosomatic symptoms - upset stomach / headaches
eating too much or too little
Using alcohol to manage
See any similarities? If we can find empathy for ourselves in these times we are much more likely to choose helpful strategies for managing stress and this is the message that we want to pass on to our children.
We can manage it together
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