The speaker was Gordon Neufeld and the title was “Making Sense of Troubled Kids”.
Many insights, revelations and important information were gathered in these 90 minutes.
In the last article we saw how we can reduce a child’s stress.
How we can create an environment in which our child can perceive its feelings
Why our children need more feelings and less emotions
As we saw in the last article, the root of most of the problems we can have with our children is not behavioural, but emotional.
This is why we have to look under the iceberg to find a suitable solution that works.
We have seen that there are three floors under the iceberg:
- Being stuck in facing separation and the story of elevated emotions. How they are stirred up by confrontation with separation.
- Being stuck in the stress response and the story of lost feelings. How children can lose their feelings through inner stress.
- Being stuck in immaturity and the story of missing feelings. How children are prevented from maturing by permanent stress and the resulting lack of feelings.
In this article we will deal with the question
“How can I create a place for my child to recover after stressful situations?
There are moments when we cannot change the stressful reality of a child’s life. School, moving or even divorce are situations where we cannot do much to eliminate the stress. However, there is much we can do to provide our children with a safe place to relax, a place to feel again. This provides the conditions for them to mature.
- We can do this by reducing separation.
As we saw in the last article, it is important never to use our bond against those who are close to us. Nor to teach them a lesson or control their behavior.
We have seen that this is a common form of discipline, but in the end it harms our relationship with our child and sabotages the security our children need in their relationship with us. They need to feel safe so they can come back into contact with their feelings and rest after stressful situations.
Because when the relationship between us and our children is secure, it creates a sense of connection. We can be the ones who offer this security after a stressful moment or even a stressful day.
- We can do that by building bridges to our children:
Another way Neufeld has taught us to reduce separation is called bridging.
In a world where we can’t keep our children by our side all the time, there is lots of things that goes in the way. If the child is attached to us, (parent, teacher) we can use our attachment to influence, we can use blinder.
Bridging is used when facing separation to preserve the connection by drawing attention to the next point of contact or to what stays the same.
We can do this by helping the child not to focus on the separation but on the next connection:
For example, when we put our little child to bed (bedtime also means separation):
“Honey, I’ll be back in a few minutes to hug you.” Or:
“I’ll be back in 10 minutes to check on you.”
Or in the morning, before we leave the house for a long working day:
“I’m looking forward to dinner together”.
Always facing the next connection point instead of separation. The bridging helps, even if we have to rebuke our child:
“No, you can’t talk to your sister like that!
But the next thing we should say is:
“Don’t worry, everything will be fine. And I’m looking forward to watching the game on TV with you tonight.”
That’s a connection. It’s bridging.
Neufeld mentioned 3 more ways towards being be this safe place for our children:
- By creating safe relationships
A safe relationship is a stable relationship.
Security is the key. A safe place is where our child feels safe. Safe in our love, and the certainty that we take responsibility for the relationship.
As we have seen above, this is a place where the bond is not used against the child.
A place where thoughts like:
- “If I don’t behave, Mom won’t love me anymore.”
- “If I’m not good at sports, Daddy will be disappointed in me.”
- “When I get angry, my mother sends me to my room and then I can’t be around her anymore”.
…. having no reason to exist
We must make sure that nothing separates them from our love. Our task is to hold on to them, through thick and thin, even through difficult behavior.
Why? When a child feels safe, all his feelings come back. No matter how stressful his day was at school, daycare or elsewhere; where the connection is, our feelings come back.
It is the same in marriage. When I come back from a stressful event, Benny embraces me and tenderly asks me,
“Honey, how was it?”
If it was a challenge, I am able to tell him everything – and at the same time I feel hunger, thirst and tiredness again.
- By providing Emotional playgrounds:
If we can’t be there for our children after school, we need to make sure we create a ritual where we can have these emotional playgrounds. Times without any technology, a place where our feelings can return. Things like theater, role-playing, reading stories that allow them to capture their own emotions, painting, laughing, dancing, writing, music…..
A wonderful way to connect with our children, to have these emotional playgrounds, this is to live playfulness with our children.
These rituals can take place anywhere, be it in the house, in the garden, at the swing or on a walk… Simply a place where our child (and we) can relax, without the need for performance and meeting expectations.
A question we should all be asking ourselves:
“Where can I rest in the evening, where is the place where my feelings return?
If we don’t have this place, our body will become emotionally ineffective and our feelings will be missing.
- By providing a safe place for children to express their feelings.
It is important that a child is allowed to express its feelings.
As parents and teachers, we can help them to add feelings to their emotions.
Instead of being impatient with the child
“why do you always overreact” or
“you have no reason to feel the way you do”,
we can help them to feel the emotion, to become aware of it. So that when the child is frustrated, it does not just experience a tantrum, but learns to express its feelings:
“Mommy, I am so frustrated!
Create a place where they can express themselves without fear of separation.
Help them feel the anticipation of separation and grow in it so that they can say,
“I will miss you, I don’t want you to go…”
to feel the separation and futility that they cannot change.
Or to connect with the feelings of futility and sadness so that a “no” can be processed instead of simply causing stress and difficult behavior in the child.
By working through the many notes I made during this webinar, I felt almost overwhelmed by so many insights and information. However, dots began to connect in my head, and I began to see the whole picture.
In the next article, Benny and I will describe our personal experiences with this material, things we know we did right – and things we can improve in our daily lives.