By– Dr ANJALI SANGWAN
Sometimes catharsis comes to a parent at the oddest of places. For me, it was a hospital waiting room.
I could barely breathe. My heart felt heavy. My head throbbed. My tears stung. My brain vomited scary thoughts. For three whole hours.
L, my younger daughter, all of 7, had a nasty fall. A surgery was underway to rectify her ear. It was not life-threatening. So said the surgeon. But, it left me gasping for life.
The fact that my elder daughter and husband were by my side, did not help. I was still miserable.
Memories of the past 7 years, when L had been the life of the family, were on auto-play. I worried if I Loved her enough.
Did I say ‘ Ma loves you’ enough number of times? Did I read her enough stories? Did I cook her favorite food enough? Did I pay enough attention to her endless chatter? Did I use enough encouraging words? Did I respect her choices enough? There was no stopping these questions.
I pulled out the letter for comfort. The one my L wrote for me before she left for the operation theater. The sight of her handwriting, the weight of her words and the details of her illustrations, swamped me. I could not control my tears. My little daughter had professed her undying love for me because I “cared for her so much.”
A cathartic relief washed over me. L felt Loved. That is how I decoded the letter.
L’s letter taught me some parenting lessons and reinforced my faith in some others. I share them with you, dear Readers.
“What it’s like to be a parent: It’s one of the hardest things you’ll ever do but in exchange it teaches you the meaning of unconditional love.”– Nicholas Sparks, The Wedding
- Lesson 1– Verbalize your Love :
They say if you Love someone, show it. Well, I know it first-hand that showing is not enough for children. Speak your unconditional love by expressions of delight and support for your children. They need to know that your Love for them does not depend on their accomplishments.
Your Loving words will generate positive feelings, which in turn will evoke positive behavior. Where unconditional Love is in abundance, children thrive.
“Children desperately need to know–and hear in ways they understand and remember–that they’re loved and valued by mom and dad.”–Paul Smally
- Lesson 2– Hug to connect:
Reach out to the child in a manner that is nourishing and constructive. A warm hug, a slight pat on the shoulder or an encouraging tap on the head is all it takes for the child to connect to the parent. Your gestures can be a million variations. All of which say “I Love you” and “you are important in my life.”
Consistent show of paternal Love is required in forging a stronger parent-child bond. It is the vitamin of parental Love. At least 8 times a day, say researchers.
- Lesson 3–Converse effectively:
An eye-to-eye chit-chat with your children goes a long way in reassuring them that you are participating in their world and listening.
Ask them questions about their day and their interaction with others. Give them a chance to be heard, without ridiculing or judging. Once the feelings are out, children will be at peace and cooperate in any discipline drive you may intend.
This meaningful conversation should be weaved into a routine for each child in the family, separately. Children are eager to please parents and your undivided attention will make them feel good about themselves.
“Piglet: ‘How do you spell love?’
Pooh: ‘You don’t spell it, you feel it.’ “–A.A.Milne, Winnie the Pooh
- Lesson 4–Encourage expression and empathize:
It is alright for children to feel sad or angry sometimes. Encourage them to talk of the whole range of their emotions. Children should have the freedom to express their feelings,ideas, opinions, wants and needs.
You will often need to make the connection between the explanation of what a child is feeling and what that emotion is called. Teaching children to honor their feelings as signals about things they need to handle differently in their lives, empowers them.
When you help children feel safe about expressing emotions, you teach them that their emotions are acceptable. This means they are loved by the parent wholly, just the way they are.
Empathize. Just being understood by the parent is enough for helping the child let go of troubling emotions. However, empathizing does not mean that you agree; you see from their perspective too.
If emotions are repressed, say for fear of punishment, they will erupt in other unhealthy ways like tantrums.
“Stop trying to perfect your child, but keep trying to perfect your relationship with him.”–Dr Henker
- Lesson 5–Negotiate new boundaries:
As children grow, they continually push parents for greater personal freedom. It is their natural urge towards physical and psychological independence of adulthood. An emotional need.
You will have to change your authoritarian or permissive ways with children. Be flexible about limits, all the while maintaining family values. If you negotiate new boundaries, a positive environment can be created at home. Children can learn the skills of balancing the needs of others with theirs.
- Lesson 6–Forgive generously:
Mistakes and defeats should be expected and accepted. Help children develop self-esteem by forgiving and moving on. Have patience with mistakes when a task takes a little longer or it is not done as well as you could have done yourself.
Your tolerance will create trust and children will be able to confide in you about problems they are facing. It is impossible to develop self-confidence without it.
Also, recognize their effort to correct themselves. Praise them when they do well.
Explain and advice. If your children are exposed to your words of wisdom during this window of opportunity, it can make a significant difference to their emotional health.
- Lesson 7–Be the role model:
“Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.”–Robert Fulghum
Children learn immensely from how you behave with them and with other members of the family. They do what you do. Are you trying to shape respectful children?
For that to happen, they need to be treated in a courteous, thoughtful, and civil manner. Avoid sarcasm, belittling or shouting. Use ‘please,’ ‘thank you,’ ‘excuse me,’ ‘I am sorry,’–yes, even with children.
It is important to remember this when dealing with an angry, irritable child. If the child is angry at the limits you have set, stomps her/his feet and walks off; wait till the anger passes and resolve the conflict. You need to model the approach you intend to teach.
- FOOD FOR THOUGHT:
Psychologists believe that many children are misdiagnosed with disorders such as hyperactivity and prescribed medication. This ,in fact, is a result of unfulfilled emotional needs. We must nurture our children’s emotional needs for stronger relationships at home and with peers.
L is finally back home. Soon the house will be submerged in her constant chatter. She will climb on every piece of furniture to belt out her favorite numbers. But, the weight of her expectations has become heavier in my hands. To become the “caring mother,” I require more persistence and patience. I have a long way to go.
What is your take on providing an emotionally rich environment to your child? Do comment in the box below, or Email me. I will love to hear from you, dear Readers.