Our goal this month has been to figure out how to have a long-range view on our parenting – to figure out how to get from wherever we are today to the adult we want our child or teenager to be when they hit 18 and are ready to fly the nest. We are finishing this week with some core attachment ideas that will help us create a safe space for our kids to be able to learn and grow in by helping them to feel seen, known and precious.
We’ve already talked about affirmation, support and bids. Today we want to look at the power of giving words as another step in helping our child feel known.
Our kids are busy learning on every axes of life – social, emotional, physical and mental – and that means that often things are going to happen that they simply don’t understand themselves.
Sometimes it will be something happening in their body “I feel yucky” that you need to help them to figure out. Depending on age and stage you might ask them questions like:
- Does it hurt? If so, where?
- Do you feel hot/cold?
- Does your body feel heavy?
- When did you last have a drink of water?
- What does your tummy think about the idea of some food?
Or you might help by offering observations such as:
- Oh, your neck feels really warm, I wonder if you need to take off your sweater?
- We’ve been playing at the park for a while now, I wonder if you’d like to come sit under the tree in the shade and have some water and fruit?
Sometimes it will be questions to do with their social situations, like:
- Why do you think J didn’t want to play with you today?
- How does it make you feel when your sister/brother/sibling takes things from your room? How do you think they feel when you take things from theirs?
- Have you noticed that you can feel different ways when you’re hanging out with different people? Is this new person leaving you feeling good feelings or bad feelings?
And sometimes it will be about their emotions – helping them to identify what feelings they are experiencing and why and then to figure out what steps they might be able to take to deal with those feelings in a healthy fashion. We might do this:
- by playing games where we practice acting out different emotions,
- by using cartoon drawings of faces to help us identify our emotions,
- by mirroring their emotions and saying something like “when my face gets long and heavy like that I know that I’m sad“ (or I might use the word deflated depending on age).
Once we have words for our feelings then we can move on to giving ideas about what we can do about these emotions, such as:
- when I’m tired I know I need to recharge my battery – some things that I can do to recharge my battery include taking a rest, cuddling with someone I love or swinging gently in the back yard
- when I’m angry or excited I know I need to let off steam – some things I can do to let off steam include going for a run, having someone spin me really fast on the tire swing or writing angsty poetry
- when I’m hurt emotionally I know I need a way to heal – some things I can do to heal include cuddling up with someone safe, expressing my pain creatively (in song or art or food) or sitting quietly down by the water
Regardless of what area of life we’re talking about, giving words and then giving ideas helps our child to both understand deeply that we know them as well as beginning to gain the self-awareness that will allow them to know themselves.