recently, my in-laws came into town and we planned a trip to the park with my nephew and my two grand children. we started out with three happy-go-lucky children who were excited to participate in a fun filled afternoon. things were going quite well, if i do say so myself…
there was hanging…and smiles…
there was climbing…and smiles…
and squirting water…and smiles…
even the adults were finding there inner child…
and before we blinked twice…there were tears in abundance…tears brought on by the adults in the group who played on an adult playing field and left the children heart broken.
pawpaw played too rough for the grand children resulting in injuries (minor to the body but huge to their hearts)…and daddy played in a way that frightened my nephew…
there we were with three children with broken hearts.
what i witnessed was that at their tender ages, they did not know what to do with what they were feeling…
no matter how many apologies were given…the tears continued to pour.
i hugged each child and explained that although what the adults did was pretty yukky to a little kid, the offending adult did not mean to cause them pain or to hurt them…even though that is what happened.
i asked the adult to come over and say to the child, “i’m sorry that i hurt you.”
i then asked the child to offer forgiveness and say, “pawpaw, i forgive you.” or “daddy, i forgive you.”
my goodness…the tears poured out even more. my grandson said to me, “i can’t forgive him” and he walked to another part of the playground by himself.
i watched as he sat alone for a few minutes and, when he could he rejoined the group, as someone suggested we go to another part of the park and visit the animals.
as we walked, i noticed my grandson and his pawpaw walking together ahead of the group. pawpaw later explained to me that, my grandson had run ahead of the rest of us to catch up with him and as they walked, Jake said, “pawpaw, i forgive you for hurting me.” my husband then explained that he realised his actions were silly but that he had not wanted to hurt Jake…he just wanted to play and it turned out badly. he also promised not to play rough like that again.
as my husband told me about their conversation, i smiled because i realised that my grandson had taken himself out of the situation to be alone for a few minutes and when he had processed his feelings and was able, he extended forgiveness and moved on.
that was a proud moment for me…i saw maturity developing in my six year old grand child.
it can be frustrating working with children because they have not reached a place of understanding concerning their emotions or how to work through what they are feeling.
we teach children to walk, dress themselves, colour inside of the lines, and these skills help them make advances in life.
i think it is as important to help our young children begin to understand what and why they are feeling what they are feeling and give them tools for coping and managing their emotions.
they may not get the whole concept, but children are bright (my grand children can operate technology better than i can) and they are capable of building life skills that will benefit them on their life journey when they are dealing with emotions in friendships, family, work and other social arenas.
here are a few things that are important for children to learn concerning emotions:
1. how to identify what they are feeling. am i angry or frustrated? do you realise that a child’s reaction to anger is the same or nearly the same as when they are frustrated? learning to recognise the difference and communicate it, will actually help the adults in their lives help them come to grips with how to handle the emotion effectively. children need permission to express emotions in a healthy way.
2. what to do with that emotion? suggesting the child take some time on their own to allow angry or frustrated emotions to settle is a valuable solution. however, it is more than a “go to your room until you calm down” response on the adult’s part. i have found with both of my grandchildren that even when an angry emotion is raw, when i remain calm and ask them if they are feeling angry, the emotion often diffuses quite a bit at that point. as we adults know, when someone shows understanding concerning what we are feeling, some of the pain is removed. adults should be good role models. show children how they can express their emotions. use show and tell, art and writing as outlets for emotional expression.
3. discuss and practice appropriate behaviour. children do not learn and perfect skills on the first attempt. we stand them up, we encourage them to take a step and they fall down. we then try again. it is the same with training any skill and it can be applied to teaching and training them how to maintain healthy emotional well-being. give children phrases and options that they can use when they are attempting to express themselves. help them practice the skills so that processing their feelings becomes as natural as brushing their teeth will one day.
by the way, we ended our park adventure with many more smiles than tears…and had a lovely afternoon.
i would love to hear how you help you children process their emotions. please stop by the comments section before you go and share your experiences with me.
here’s to smiling children and enjoyable afternoons,