Monday, August 24, 2015

Warnings and Time

You know who has adorable kids? Many people. You know who is a little less adorable? An upset child.

Yesterday, as I was playing with an adorable little boy. He chased my cat, I let him pet my cat, and eventually I told him that kitty needed to take a nap because kitty was getting worn out. So then I brought out a little bag of goodies. (I firmly believe that most people who have spent a few years around children under the age of 5 have toys available around the house and/or know who to make something around into a desired entertainment item). Instead of dumping the bag out, I encouraged the little boy to reach inside. He exclaimed when he pulled out the first pen, and then the second, and then the crayon, until he decided it was time to dump the bag of items. We colored a little, he exclaimed as caps came off items, and eventually we even had a game where I would sing until an ill-fitting cap fell off of a pencil.

I noticed that his parents were starting to get ready to get ready to leave, so I let my companion know that we would need to clean up soon; that he would be getting ready to go home soon. As feet shifted closer to the door, I told him it was time to say goodbye to crayons. "Okay ________, when I count to three it will be time to say, 'Bye, bye, crayon!' One, two, three..." We repeated this little ritual, each of us grabbing a crayon and dropping it in the bag on the count of three until all the crayons were put away. At one point, my new friend tried to run away. I reached my arm out and gently guided him back, letting him know that right now it was time to say goodbye to the crayons. When we were finished, he held onto his parents. A little while later, he ran to the door and his parents were shocked that he was telling them that it was time to go.

The great thing about warnings and proper time are that with them, children have the time to process change. Adults live in a fast-paced world because we have to. When we force children into our speedy views, sometimes they end up a little carsick. But, if we prep them for the curves; if we slow down at the turns we know are going to cause a little headspin; car rides become a lot easier to manage. :-)

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Unable to Empathize

It's funny the things that stick with us from childhood. I remember one day, when I was about 10, I asked my mom if we could go and get my hair cut. She said she was too busy that day, but we would go to get my hair cut soon. This really upset me. I figured that I should be the most important thing. When I had children, I told myself, I would make sure to always put them first.

This memory makes me a little ashamed now, because now I understand so much more. It wasn't that she didn't want to take me to get my hair cut, it was that she was truly busy with running a household. My hair cut was low on the list of needs at that moment in time. 

The important take-away from this is empathy. Children are empathic beings, no doubt. But, empathy is based on putting ourselves in the other person's shoes and trying to think of how we would feel. Children don't understand what it is like to have to work all day, think of the groceries, the bills, the laundry; and then also try to be the best parent you can. Children's days are full of many important learning blocks, but their memories are typically sharper because they are being pulled in fewer directions than adults. 

The gap that is missing is the internal dialogue from the adult. For example, "Honey, I understand you want to go get your hair cut. But honestly, I had a really hard day at work and I still need to make dinner. If you remind me tomorrow, we will go to the salon on our way home from school, ok?" In mmy example, I didn't give all the gorey details, but I did provide enough information that I can help my child understand my needs. 

Yes, we do need to shield our children from certain things, but if we shield them too much we become the enemy. When we are busy, it is important to tell children why. In order for children to walk in our shoes, there are certain gaps that we need to help to fill. By giving reasons and by sharing a little of ourselves with children, we are able to help them to empathize with us.