Translating your children’s words

By jm_admin

“Children don’t say, “I had a hard day today; can I talk to you about it?” They say, “Will you play with me?”

(Lawrence J. Cohen, Playful Parenting )

Dealing with our own emotions

As parents, we not only need to listen to what are children are saying to us, but we also need to pay attention to what they don’t say.

Young children try to communicate in the best way they know how. Often their actions and behaviours are more comfortable forms of expression than using verbal language. It is also best suited to their developmental stage. Even though a three or four year-old is often capable of using speech, that they don’t have the necessary brain development or experience required to understand or express all these complex emotions and feelings.

So, even when children don’t know exactly how to express what is on their mind or ask for your help, rather than taking their words at face value, we need to be as open as possible. We need to consider the deeper message.

When we begin to understand that the feelings and emotions beneath our children’s words , behaviours and actions are needs they are trying to communicate, we are closer to connecting with our children and creating a safe space where they can more readily express themselves.

For children, play is the most innate and prime tool they use to explore their feelings and emotions. Play is therapeutic for all children and they know exactly what to do to release and resolve what is burdening their system. By allowing children the freedom to play in a safe and suitably resourced environment, they are offered endless opportunities to work through their thoughts and feelings.

Play is a way for children to regulate, release their responses: flight (big cries, running,); fight (restlessness, aggressiveness); freeze (things that set the body in motion) and fawn (nurturing games, messy play where children feel they can be imperfect with acceptance).

Equally, parents must take their cue when their children ask them to play. When children need you, they are not always capable of saying, “I need to talk to you. I need to be with you. Today was a difficult day.” But what they do say, is “Will you play with me.” You are their safe place and if children do not think we will play, they begin to not even ask and then we all miss the opportunity to connect.

Typically, these moments of reconnecting do not last long. Often, once children have unburdened themselves or revealed what was on their mind through play, they feel better and move on.

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