Did you know that crying is one of the ways your child builds their confidence? Often parenting advice centres around avoiding our children’s feelings, and stopping tantrums. With Hand in Hand parenting we teach parents how to listen to their children, so that they can grow and shine, and be their natural, confident selves.
On Friday’s my daughter goes to a playgroup. As we live in Switzerland, the group is in Swiss German, although my daughter does have an English speaking friend there.
Recently she’s begun saying that she doesn’t want to go, even though she’s been happy there for over a year. I feel reluctant to force her to do something she doesn’t want to do. However when I ask if she wants to give up the playgroup completely she always says no, so I was pretty sure that the reluctance is more about fears and separation anxiety, than actually disliking it. I know she’s thinking a lot about starting Kindergarten in August which has increased her separation anxiety lately.
Yesterday her English speaking friend wasn’t able to go. As we walked up the hill to the playgroup she started complaining about how she didn’t want to go, and how tired she was I sensed that it wasn’t really she was tired, but that feelings were coming up about not having her friend there. So I set a limit, and told her that I was sure she could find the energy to scooter there.
She began crying, I kept walking, turning behind her and assuring her that she had the strength to catch me up. She cried for a while, and then was happy to keep scootering along.
When we got the playgroup, and it was the moment to separate from me, she started clinging to my leg. I unstuck myself, got down on her level, and told her that I was going to go. She started crying. We walked away from the other children and teachers for a while, and I listened to her. We went back and tried again. Still she was just staying stuck to me.
I knew she needed to have a big cry, to release whatever fears and anxieties were in the way of her enjoying the playgroup. But I wasn’t sure how to help her release those feelings. I also didn’t want to disturb the group.
In the end I could see no way out of the situation, so I decided that we would just go home. As we walked away my daughter started crying, and crying about how she did want to go! I listened to her until she had stopped crying. Then we went back over, and she chose one of the teacher’s to hold hands with. I left her happy and willing to give it a go.
When I came back later she was holding the hands of one of the other children. She had a big smile on her face. She told me she enjoyed it even more than when her friend was there! I think she actually liked the opportunity to connect with some of the Swiss kids as well, without her friend being there.
This is how listening can turn things around. If I’d have quickly left her, and rushed off while she was upset, she might have stopped crying, but she wouldn’t have got to release her feelings. She might not have been able to enjoy the playgroup with confidence if she was still feeling upset deep down. It was so much better to listen to those fears, and anxieties so that she could choose to go, without me forcing her, and have a good time.
When our children are faced with new situations they may feel stressed or nervous, particularly if it involves separation from us. Crying, and tantrumming are all part of our child’s natural stress-release mechanism for dealing with their feelings. When we listen without trying to stop or avoid their feelings, we can help our children to embrace life and live it to the full.
I like to give my daughter as much choice as I can in her life. I like to respect her thoughts, and ideas. When she initially told me she didn’t want to, we could of just turned around and go home. But I sensed that this wasn’t her deepest desire, or need. What she actually needed was for me to set a limit, to give her a chance to try.
When I’m due to give a workshop, , I often get incredibly nervous beforehand. All sorts of thoughts and feelings flood through my head. One time I sat on a train going to another city to give a workshop, and felt like I wanted nothing more than to get off at the next station, and head home! But actually, once I begin a workshop, and meet all the lovely parents, I end up having a great time and feel so fulfilled after sharing the amazing Hand in Hand parenting tools. I leave on a high, and immediately arrange another workshop, then as the time grows near the fears rise again! It has got easier with time though.
If I avoided giving workshops, because of my feelings, I wouldn’t get the chance t face my fears, and grow as a person. I know I need to do the same for my daughter.
It can be hard to give kids the push they need to embrace something that seems scary at first, but Hand in Hand parenting has taught me how to do it with love.
If you’d like to learn more about our approach to separation anxiety, check out my article 20 Playful Ways To Heal Separation Anxiety, or Hand in Hand parenting’s online Healing Separation Anxiety Course.