Braving the silence with our children is not easy. I was reading another one of Janet Lansbury’s brilliant posts on parenting, and it really struck a cord. She was reflecting on how hard it is for us just to be present with our children, to sit in silence with them during those moments that they might be upset, but they might also well need to be given the space to process what they’re experiencing. It’s so easy to rush in with distractions, consolations, advice or fixing. Even soothing and comforting, as in “shhhhhh, it’s going to be ok, it’s all ok” can take away from their need for simply your presence and their own thoughts and feelings.
I’ve had many lessons in this recently. Valentina started pre-school two weeks ago, and it’s been an adjustment for her, for all of us. While now when we tell her it’s a school day, she runs off to get her play shoes and backpack, she still cries when I go to collect her afterwards. The first few days she had a few tears when we dropped her off too, but those are no longer happening. She has so rarely cried in general throughout her life, that it takes me aback, especially when I think she’d be happy to see me when I pick her up from school.
In those moments, I am learning to comfort her by saying nothing. I pick her up, hold her, and shut up. We just stand there for a few minutes, breathing together, letting her little feelings bubble up and out of their own accord. I don’t tell her “it’s ok, there’s nothing to cry about” because I don’t want to invalidate her feelings, they’re hers and they’re important to experience. Finally I will feel her relax, the sniffing will stop, and she pops her head up from my shoulder as if to say, “ahhhh, ok, I’m good now, what’s for lunch?”
Another thing that we are experiencing currently is that once home from school (she goes just in the mornings on the same 3 days I work so I pick her up at 12.30 and bring her home during my lunchtime), she has difficulty with the transition to me leaving to work again in the afternoon. Again, we practice just being with her and allowing her these feelings. I realized how against the grain this is – even our nanny, whom I love dearly – will try to distract her with going to see the birds or the butterflies. I have asked her to not do that, as distraction is also taking her away from the feelings that she needs to have, and have validated. I try to follow the RIE principle of reflecting, without making assumptions for what she’s feeling. For example “Valentina you’re sad because Mummy has to go to work, you want Mummy to stay home”. I’ll hear this little squeaky “yes” in response. She feels acknowledged, and heard, and I will usually see a shift in her demeanor once that happens.
In her article, Janet talks about the value of braving the silence with our children, and how that is a gift that can encourage their emotional resilience. I would go one step further and say that the goal is actually embracing the silence, of learning to enjoy it and feeling how it can deepen your bond with your child. I’m a firm believer in it, and I think she writes so eloquently and with such love. I do encourage you to visit her blog, the article on Braving the Silence can be found here. Thank you Janet for another enlightening article, you’ve really influenced the way I parent in so many ways and I feel that Valentina has benefitted from that.