My baby boy starts nursery next week, naturally I’m a little worried. It’s always hard handing them over for the first time, and even though this is not my first rodeo, it’s my first time leaving him.
My biggest worry is that he now refuses a bottle, and at 7 months isn’t eating much food yet, so i’m anxious about how he will manage for 4 hours without milk!
I expressed my concerns to half a dozen friends and they all more or less said the same thing just in a different way, which can be summed up as follows:
- I wouldn’t worry about it / He’ll be fine
- Have you tried a sippy cup?
These responses are perfectly normal, it’s probably the same kind of thing I would say, and we do this, tell people not to worry and offer solutions, because it’s what we hear everyone say to us, the problem is with each conversation I felt more unheard, dismissed and my anxiety grew.
What’s missing in these responses, and i’m not just referring to my friends responses here, but our responses to people’s worries in general, is they completely ignore the person’s feelings. They dismiss the anxiety and the person is left feeling more anxious and unheard.
This is a society wide issue stemming, I believe, from childhood.
Growing up did you hear any of the following:
- Stop crying!
- Be a big girl/boy
- I’ll give you something to cry about!
- Stop whining!
- Don’t worry about it!
If so, like most kids, your feelings probably weren’t validated. I’m an 80’s kid and although the ‘children should be seen and not heard’ philosophy wasn’t as bad as in the past, there was still no real validation of emotions, mostly because our parents were raised with the above philosophy. This isn’t about blame or finger pointing in anyway, I believe each generation improves on the last, and it’s our time to step up and improve things for our kids, especially when it comes to validating emotions.
With the current issues with Mental Health and suicide rates at a high, even amongst children, we need to be taking action to improve Mental Health, and it starts with allowing children to express their emotions fully. Every emotional outburst from a child (and even the adult tantrums!) is a cry for help, it’s their way of asking for a need to be met. And if we can get beyond the judgement of the behaviour, address the underlying need and validate the emotion/s, we will raise an entirely different generation!
In the future when my daughter tells her friends she is really worried about taking her baby to nursery for the first time they’ll hold space for her worry, it won’t be dismissed and a solution won’t be offered without it first being requested, they may say “I hear you, that must be hard, I know you’re worried. Is there anything I can do to help?”.
We can offer people advice if its requested but what they really want is to be heard and understood, they want empathy!
When we have received the empathy we need, instead of being told not to worry about something that clearly is worrying, we’ll be much better equipped to deal with our worries and find a solution. As social beings we’re supposed to connect, empathy helps us feel deeply connected.
Developing Emotional Intelligence in children, and ourselves, is something I am deeply passionate about because our children are the future and our emotions are our foundation. If we have a strong foundation and are able to self-regulate and hold space for others, we will make a huge difference in the world. We will make it a far more compassionate, understanding and empathic place, that’s the future I want to create, how about you?
I’m currently training to be a Conscious Parenting Coach so I can help families all over the world to develop their child’s emotional intelligence and to support them to create a deeper connection with their children. In time I hope to bring this work into the school system, to remove punishments and introduce a new way of helping children be seen and heard so they grow up knowing that they are enough and that their needs matter.
If you’d like to follow me on this journey you can find me on facebook here