3 Tips to help you understand the way your child thinks about their world
How differently children view the world from the way we view it as adults!
Sometimes my children, now grown up, tell me things about what scared them as children, and I had no idea at the time. I did not pick up on why my daughter did not like me to switch on the 'owl' lamp in my room - until she told me recently - 'Remember how scared I was of the eyes on that owl light?'
A change of teacher or school, having a new routine, being in a huge new classroom instead of the intimate classroom of last year, eating unfamiliar foods... all of this and more can be enough to make some children panic and anxious - and they are often unable to tell us the real reason at the time.
Even a family holiday, or guests in your home may trigger fears. It may lead to behaviour that is a loud cry for someone to understand and help.
My son had nightmares for months after watching 'E.T.' - and I had to guess it was that. Momentous as well as small things that happen in life can be dealt with so much more easily once a person is able to talk them through.
And the big things, like parents arguing, or losing a close family member, or things that happen to them that are painful and abusive, are often things that make a child shut down and unable to deal with the associated emotions.
How can we help our children to let us know in words the things that trouble them? So often, if we know what it is, we can help by removing the problem, or facing the fear together with them. When the anxiety is gigantic to the child, it may take a lot of care and patience to get him to express it.
Help your child talk about things that are important to him or her. Here are three ideas - for both girls and boys:
1. Tell your child often that you are listening.
Tell them they can tell you anything and everything: you will not be angry, you will not laugh at them, you will help them understand it, and then carry through on those promises.
Even when you think you should give him a 'talking to' about his bad behaviour, or rudeness, tell him you know he knows it was not acceptable behaviour, get him to talk about it - but don't ask him why he behaved that way.
Talk about 'what' - what was happening, who was he talking with, what was he playing, when this behaviour happened: this will help you and him to understand the trigger for his bad behaviour.
2. Teach your child to keep himself safe.
You do not want him to become fearful, but you do want him to be safe. Teach him or her that if someone wants him to keep a secret from you, that is not good - unless it is about a birthday present or a surprise.
Secrets about things that people do or give to your child or others, or things others make him do, are never secrets your child should keep from his parent.
3. Don't be put off if your child refuses to engage with you.
Be creative. Make time to spend with him, and let him feel you are taking time out specially for him because you want to - not because you feel you have to.
Do something together that you know he likes doing, and encourage him to chat whilst having fun.
Older children often get to the stage of absolutely refusing to do things with you, and being separate. Then, as a parent, it often just means being around to catch the moment when 'chat' can happen naturally.
But with a younger child, don't accept his 'No'. Persuade him, and do something fun and neutral with him, that will give an opportunity for him to talk to you as well.
And you, his parent, may need someone you trust to talk through concerns that may come from what your child talks about with you.
Have you had any experiences in understanding what your child is trying to say about their world? What has worked for you?