As a professional, with over 20 years’ experience in the field of early childhood education, one of the situations which causes concern is hearing, “kids are resilient” or “they are kids, they are going to be just fine”. Children deserve our attention and respect for any feelings they are having. I often see, in my role as a Grief Recovery Method Specialist, how the repressed emotions of our childhood can have a negative impact on our happiness as an adult.
We know there is no manual for parenting. We teach what we learned from our parents. And our children will most likely teach their children what they learned from us. This is a cycle which can result is lasting repercussions. Good news – there is a solution to end any repetitive loop of denial and dismissal.
How our feelings and emotions were dealt with when we were children, teaches us how to deal with our emotions as an adult. Ultimately, this can also dictate the success of our careers, our relationships, and our own parenting style. We teach what we know and what we know was absorbed by what we saw, heard, and experienced as a child. Thus, as parents, we teach our children what we were taught. For many of us these lessons include repress emotions, embrace available distractions from pain, and convince others, and therefore ourselves, everything is fine. We are not just fine.
There is another way. A way to teach our children how to identify and process their emotions so they don’t have to pretend their feelings do not exist. Before we can embrace any new process, we must first attempt to understand what we are currently doing and what messages we are sending to our children.
Many of us have unintentionally sent our children the message their feelings do not matter. By giving our child an automatic response, we send the message their emotions are not important to us without being aware of how dismissive they may feel. Our child might come home from school and share how one of the other children pushed them down and stole their snack. We might respond, because this is what we were taught, “Here have a cookie, you will feel better.” What we don’t realize is we are teaching our children to not only dismiss their emotions but also to replace the pain with food.
We can also unwittingly do similarly when a family pet dies. As our child cries for the loss of their animal companion, in an attempt to ease their suffering, we offer to get them another pet. When we dismiss their feelings, redirecting their focus, we teach our children not to be honest.
Perhaps our child just experienced the death of a grandparent. Several incorrect messages can be exchanged at this time. As the child expresses their sadness, we tell them it will get better over time. This is a myth we have all reached for. While time can diminish the intensity of our pain, time cannot heal. It is the actions we take which allow our broken heart to mend.
As children we were also taught incorrect languaging to use when a family member dies. Some of us may have been told Grandma is sleeping or grandpa went on a trip. We may have, with good intentions, explained to our own children how Grandma is now in heaven. Children are unable to process the analogy of sleep vs death, or a trip vs death, of heaven vs physical death. They may become afraid to fall asleep, to go on a trip without their family for fear of not returning or losing someone they love while they are gone, or they may even look for ways to visit their loved ones in heaven.
By not being honest and explaining what death is, we end up teaching our children improper language and association. We do not give them the information to understand death is permanent and a normal part of life.
As a Grief Recovery Method Specialist, I am excited to announce a new, online program, Helping Children with Loss, designed to teach caregivers how to respond to the children in their care in a supportive and thoughtful way.
One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is a healthy way to experience loss. Perhaps, if taught the correct process now, they will not need to learn the steps as an adult or attempt to process their childhood losses years later. In fact, one of the main thing an adult discovers in this program is the amount of baggage they are carrying from their childhoods which affects their lives today.
Everything is not ‘just fine’. However, there is still time to heal and feel good.
Tammy Adams, Certified Coach Practitioner offering support, in-person or online, Canada-wide.
She is certified in The Grief Recovery Method®, Personality Dimensions™, Reiki, Access Bars®, and Mindfulness. To learn more about the services she offers, book a 20-minute free phone consult, or visit her service tab on her website at www.tadams.ca