Sunday, June 12, 2016

Acting versus Reacting

Let's save our energy, anxiety and panic mode for things that are actually going to cause our children harm such as sharp objects, crossing the streets, hitting someone, being surrounded by water, gun exposure.... you get the idea. Let's try to react when things are actually going to cause harm.   Of course this is easier said than done because the reality is that we parent based on our template, and that template may reflect the way we were parented: Panic and react to everything and anything that triggers an anxiety within us.
The idea of panicking and reacting to something is embedded in us. Whenever we see children climbing, jumping or touching we are programmed to immediately say “No!” or “Don't do that!” However, if we ask ourselves how else is a child going to experience or feel something if we are constantly preventing our children from being exposed to the experiences and emotions that life brings.
I mentioned in my previous article: We should embrace pain instead of trying to prevent it. This way as our children mature, they will be more open to life's failures or painful events, such as losing a job being, being rejected by other people, losing a child, enduring death, car accident or even losing material things. Breaking up from a serious relationship or simply not having a "good day" are inevitable in life, and we have no control of it.  When a child suffers a deeply distressing or disturbing experience, the idea is for us to guide the child and help them cope with the situation.
How do we help our children cope with life's traumas and disappointments? We first need to be OK with the experience. It does not matter how bad, sad or terrible the experience may be. We need to realize that it is not about how we feel. It is about helping the individual child learn to cope.
For example, a death of a friend can be very traumatic for anyone. If my child was in this situation, I may say "I know this is a very difficult situation, how can I help you feel better?” Depending on the child’s age group, by asking if I can be of any help, I am letting the child know that I understand the pain, and that I am OK with helping him or her cope. I also need to be OK with the silence. Perhaps the child wants to be left alone, and this is perfectly acceptable. Again, it is not about how we feel or a moment to lecture.

Not winning a game can also be devastating for our children, especially if we have not dealt with our own fear of losing and understanding that losing is also part of the game.  Losing a game or a contest is how we learn and get better. Unfortunately, our society has made the word "loser" to be a terrible thing to endure.
In my family culture I embrace losing when I am playing with my 5-year-old daughter. Which was something she was not happy about since the perception of losing is taught to be a negative aspect of the game. I took this perfect opportunity to role play both scenarios with my daughter. When we play and I lose, I say: "I am a happy loser.” We continue to play and when she loses, she is now saying to me: "I am a happy loser." And we continue to play. In other words, life goes on and I am automatically teaching her about sportsmanship and grace—without having to lecture her about it.

It is with the little things that we teach our children about resilience and endurance. By acting in a practical manner and choosing not to react, our children relate to us and they feed of the way we handle ourselves and their experiences.

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