Who do you talk to when you are feeling down? Do you go to the person who tells you to “just get over it?” Perhaps you go to the person who tells you that it isn’t that bad? Or do you go to the person who sits with you and really listens to you? Powerful things happen to our brain when someone validates and labels how we feel. We feel connected, we feel accepted in how we feel and it helps us to manage our feelings and problem solve what we are going to do next. When someone sits with our feelings we call this ‘Being With.’
Have you ever experienced a time where your child is going through something really tough and you don’t know what to say? Maybe your child has skinned their knee and they are crying? Or they are stuck with you at the supermarket and they really want to go home. The reality is your child is allowed to feel upset in both of these situations. In these moments we can choose to ‘Be With’ our child to help show them we understand their feelings. It doesn’t mean we ‘give in’ every time our child gets upset. It means that we show we understand them, love them and can help them sought through their emotions. It is an important skill we teach our children and by “Being With” them they will learn to do this to others as they grow older.
So how do we “Be With?”
• Label what your child is feeling. “I can see you’re really bored. It’s hard shopping when you don’t want to be here.” “I can see you’re upset that I took the ipad away.”
• Use your facial expression and tone to match your child’s. This helps them to connect with you and feel understood.
• Get down to your child’s level.
• Resist the urge from trying to talk them out of what they feel.
• We don’t always have to ‘fix it.’ We can just be there for our children.
Sometimes it can be uncomfortable to sit with our child’s feelings, particularly if they are upset, angry or sad. We want them to be happy so we try and distract them and talk them out of what they are feeling. But in these moments, if we accept our children’s emotions and are there for them, we are teaching them that as parents we are big enough to help manage their feelings. If you are not sure what to do when your child is upset, remember that ‘Being With’ is one of the most powerful things we can do.
Written by Michael Sharp (Occupational Therapist at OTFC)