Friday, November 27, 2015

Listening to and validating your child

Have you come across a mother who laughingly reminisces about her son, “oh Mickey had such a bad temper when he was a child, he would kick doors when he got angry and throw huge tantrums; he was so naughty!” she says, inwardly gloating at her now grownup son who is married and has kids of his own? After all, kicking doors, knocking around a few punches and torturing the neighbourhood cats was no big deal really since ‘boys were going to be boys’. Usually after such episodes, Mickey would be reprimanded and told to go do his homework or focus on his studies. Eventually Mickey stopped misbehaving at home. Apparently he had outgrown his tantrums.

And what about  Tania who as a child would often tell her mother that she found it hard to breathe at times but mummy insisted that it was just psychological especially since the family doctor also confirmed that it was all in her head? After complaining to mummy a few times Tania decided there was no point in repeating herself, instead she began to avoid social gatherings as it was amongst people that her symptoms got worse.

Well  Mickey grew up into this very eligible bachelor, married a wonderful girl and they lived …. ever after? Only quite often little things make Mickey fly into a rage and when that happens he looses a bit of self control and may become abusive towards his wife. Of course he apologises after, only the poor girl doesn’t know what instigated the neurosis in the first place.

And Tania is now a mother and teaches at the neighbourhood school. She suffers from frequent palpitations, her chest constricts and she begins to feel dizzy till she pops a relaxant and the horrid feeling passes. She read somewhere that this awful experience is known as anxiety.

Now if only Mickey’s parents knew that when he was a kid he was angry because he was being bullied in school and kicking the doors at home helped lessen his frustration. And if only Tania’s mother had realised that her daughter was struggling to breathe because she could not keep up with her reading comprehension in school due to poor short term memory, perhaps life would have been easier for Tania and Mickey’s wife!

So is every angry boy a Mickey and every gasping girl Tania? Certainly not! Do parents have to be constantly on the look out for odd behaviours in their children? Definitely no! Paranoia breeds itself  and overly suspicious parents breed anxious children. But indifference to recurring aberrant or unusual behaviour can be harmful and procrastination to address it is neglectful.

There are many adults who fall into the category of individuals who have suffered from minor to major traumas in their childhood which were left unaddressed by their parents/caregivers knowingly or unknowingly. At times what is required is a little intervention which can have long term benefits.

It’s frustrating though to come across obtuse parents who procrastinate getting help for their children due to ignorance, denial or simply cultural taboos.The relatively soft approaches such as play therapy, drama therapy and  art therapy can be used for children in a non-confrontational way. As for those who may not have access to therapists, a communicative and understanding parent is by himself/herself a blessing. Listening to your children and validating their feelings is key to a happy healthy child.

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