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Saturday, 8 March 2014

Wise Words

When we rush kids through negative feelings or we distract them from them or we shut them down, we narrow their bandwidth to tolerate negative states and uncomfortable emotions. Instead, when we are present with them and soothe them and communicate "I'm here with you" as we allow them to sit in the feelings, feel them, name them, become familiar with them, then as they feel their reactive or sad or negative emotions (YES--even the angry reactive ones!), we expand their window of tolerance for handling hard emotions. This is one important way we build emotional regulation and resilience. 
So allow your child the gift of staying with their negative feelings, and provide presence and comfort. 
I remember one time my son was furious about having to get out of the bathtub. I had given him several reminders that the end of bathtime was coming and he continued to get more and more upset. When eventually he needed to get out and was so angry and wouldn't get out himself, I said calmly "It's time to get out. I know you are so mad about that. I'm going to help you step out of the tub and I'm going to be as gentle with your body as I can as you get out." (I didn't want to yank him out but I was going to hold firm to my limit of ending bath time.) So I gently pulled him out all while he was yelling and crying. Then, as I dried him off, I was just present with him and let him know "It's OK if you're so mad and so angry and you can cry and yell if you need to. I'm right here with you to help you calm down when you are ready." He yelled a bit more as I sat and listened and nodded and empathized with his experience. And then the dog came up to find out what all the noise was about and started licking the bathwater off my son's body and he began to smile and laugh--which also releases big feelings. I pulled him to me and hugged him and said "Wow. Ending that bathtime was hard for you." And then we began to talk about how things had unfolded, and he learned that I love him even at his worst (and most vulnerable) times, and that I can handle his big feelings (instead of showing him that he has to deal with them all by himself and I want nothing to do with them or him during these upset times.)