Do you ever feel like you truly don’t understand why your child is behaving in a certain way? Maybe they’re showing a lot of big emotions lately in the form of tantrums. Maybe they’re giving you a hard time with bedtime routine.
That lack of understanding could be a big why, but what if that starts with understanding ourselves first?!
As humans, we all enter this world with a predetermined destination, one that we had no choice in. That destination played a part in who we became and who we continue to become.
Take a minute to reflect on your childhood. What was it like? If you could only use one word to describe it, what would it be? What would you have wanted to be different? Did this shape the parent you are today?
Sometimes we make the choice to ignore our pasts as though doing so grants us the power to not be affected by it. Other times, we use the past as our only point of reference for the present and the future. What is the potential flaw of doing either of the above things?
When we choose to ignore our past, it’s as though we’re putting those experiences in a filing cabinet that can be opened by any key. It’s not secured because it was not yet ready to be locked away in the first place.
Doing so can potentially lead to situations that leave us feeling confused and helpless. For example, say your child is begging to sleep in your bed with you because they are scared, but you turn them down in a harsh way and insist that they sleep in their bed without much empathy. You can’t seem to understand their fear or desire to sleep in the bed with you, but you also can’t seem to pinpoint your reaction either. Well, what if when you were a child you were also turned away when you asked to sleep in your parents room? What if you had a similar experience as your own child, but because your brain decided to file it away in an unprotected safe, your body chose to respond in a similar rejecting manner as it once received many years ago.
As much as we try to forget without doing the work to heal, our body tends to remember.
Such signals are sent on a regular basis, but we rarely notice them because we don’t understand them. See the theme?
Understanding ourselves and the journey that got us here can help us to communicate more efficiently with our children. We can then pause and first try to understand the why behind their actions.
Here are a few tips from a Houston, TX family therapist for when you are feeling lost or confused:
- First, ask yourself what could have led your child to react this way? If you truly don’t know, aim to discover it.
- Just like adults, children often can’t find the words to
describe what they are feeling, especially when they cannot understand, which tends to be a catalyst of big emotions. Help them to understand by reflecting on what they are feeling and shedding light on what could have potentially caused that feeling.
- Example: You pick your child up from school and they seem sad. However, when you talk to them they answer in a frustrated tone. Rather than leaning into the frustration only while ignoring the sadness, focus on the sadness.
- “You seem very frustrated, but I can tell that you’re really sad.” Then, if they can’t tell you why, follow it up with your best guess through a statement, not a question: “I wonder if it’s because something happened at recess” – we communicate in this way because it gives off the notion that we are not entirely sure why, but we are working to understand better. Rather than asking “What happened” or “Was it because of…”, several times, we guide them based on how well you know your child and what you’ve observed. Eventually, the hope is that you’ll discover the why with your child. By doing so in a patient and calming way, you’re modeling to them the power of processing our emotions.
Becoming a parent doesn’t mean that we’ve stopped growing, on the contrary, it means we now have a tiny human whose sheer presence can help us to explore what lies within. We can learn many things from our children especially when we are willing to learn from ourselves.
Are you curious to learn more about our child counseling services? Are you looking to begin family therapy in Houston, TX? Schedule a FREE PHONE CONSULTATION today and see if our family therapists might be about to support you and your family.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Laura Guerra, LPC is a family therapist at Brittani Persha Counseling in Houston, TX. She earned her Bachelors degree in Psychology with a minor in Sociology at The University of Texas in Austin, Texas. Thereafter, she moved to Denton, Texas to attend The University of North Texas where she specialized in child and adolescent counseling and earned her Masters of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. She primarily works from a humanistic theoretical perspective known as Child Centered Play Therapy (CCPT). CCPT is a play-based modality that allows children to process their feelings, emotions, and thoughts in their mastered language: play!