Can We Fix It?
When people we care about have problems, there’s a strong compulsion to try to help, to fix things for them, to step in and make it all better. When we see a child struggling, it’s even more compelling to intervene, but is it always the right thing to do?
Try thinking back to the last time you felt unsure about something, or saddened, or frustrated, which were the responses that helped you and which were the ones that hindered? If you’re anything like me, there will have been times when you wished kind friends trying to help had just left you alone. We don’t always want to hear advice, no matter how sound, we don’t always want to hear solutions or appeasements. Sometimes we’re not ready, sometimes we need the chance to fully live through the negativity we are experiencing.
It’s incredibly important for children to realise that their feelings can be lived through without having to be ‘fixed’ as soon as possible. Finding out that it’s possible to endure negative emotions, to manage them and come out the other side perhaps a little wiser about oneself and one’s life, is an essential part of growing up and growing emotional intelligence. Sometimes you just have tolerate the blues without fighting to get rid of them. Sometimes trying to fix someone’s problem can feel to them like you’re trying to shut them down.
So when you’re confronted with your child dealing with difficult feelings, try and take a deep breath and stay open to what is being presented to you. Acknowledge what you see honestly, for example, “I can see you’re upset, would you like to tell me about it?” and allow the child to take the lead, if they want to, while you resist the urge to make it better as quickly as possible.
By trying to be too helpful, we can end up denying our children their feelings. Much better to let them know you are around to offer support if and when they need it. Give them some space and they’re much more likely to come to you.