This Monday morning my daughter woke up in a wild kind of mood. She started throwing the cushions off the sofa, pulling the magnetic letters off the fridge, and seemed much more manic than usual. She poured water on the floor, and orange juice down her top, both on purpose. She had a couple accidents as well, which was very unusual. What was the matter with her?
In the evening she tried to let off steam by throwing cushions at her dad, and laughing a lot. We had fun together, but by the end of the day she was both exhausted, and still finding it hard to relax, which made for a frustrating bedtime of endless stories!
After she eventually fell asleep, my husband and I reflected on what had happened. The day before we’d gone to a theme park, and it had been a very stimulating environment. We’d had fun going on the rides, and then there was a Halloween parade, with ghosts and witches walking through the park. They weren’t doing anything really scary, and were smiling and waving at the children, but I noticed my daughter look away. At the time I wasn’t sure if she was scared, or if it was all just a bit too much after a long day. But it was so unusual for her to have accidents, that I became sure some fear had been triggered.
We’d planned to go to local Halloween event in a nearby village, and now I was thinking, should I protect her by not taking her?
When she woke up the next day I decided to talk to her about the parade. I explained to her about Halloween, how the people were dressed up, and might look a bit scary, but they weren’t mean, and that she was always safe with us.
As I told her this she started to cry, and the more I explained that she was safe, the more she cried. After a couple minutes she was happy again, and said, ‘’I want to dress up too!’.
Sometimes crying can be an indication that something’s wrong in the present, that there’s something that we need to fix or change to make our children happy. But here I was simply giving her information, creating safety, by explaining Halloween, and as my daughter began to feel relieved, she let go of some of the earlier fear by crying. I listened to her feelings, and didn’t talk to much, just enough too reassure her that she was safe.
Releasing that fear, allowed her to get excited about Halloween. If I’d never provided the opportunity to hear her feelings, perhaps I’d have tried to ‘protect’ her, which wouldn’t have helped her build resilience or allow her to enjoy the festival. I’m still careful to stop her being exposed to the real scary stuff, but I can relax and not be too overprotective.
Our children’s off-track behavior can sometimes come out of the blue. We might not always know exactly what’s bothering them, but we can be sure that they aren’t simply behaving this way because they are ‘naughty’. It’s much more likely that they are trying to tell us about an emotional hurt. Parenting by Connection, offers a way to help our child to process their emotions, and when it works well, they don’t need to tell us with challenging (and irritating!) behaviour. We don’t need to talk a lot, or try to get our children to use words to describe their feelings, but sometimes verbal reassurance, and listening is exactly what they need.
Happy Halloween everybody!