Holding Space for Children: Loving Through the Emotional Storms

March 16th, 2015 by Dionna | Leave a comment
Posted in Consensual Living, Gentle/Positive Discipline, natural parenting

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Holding Space for Children

Holding space for children.

I read a great article recently about what it means to “hold space” for someone. The author, Heather Plett, writes that to “hold space”

means that we are willing to walk alongside another person in whatever journey they’re on without judging them, making them feel inadequate, trying to fix them, or trying to impact the outcome. When we hold space for other people, we open our hearts, offer unconditional support, and let go of judgement and control.

Heather was writing in the context of adult relationships – she and her siblings held space for their dying mother; in turn, the hospice nurse held space for Heather and her family. Doulas often hold space for their laboring clients. Spiritual advisors may hold space for parishioners.

I read the article with my current perspective – that of the mother of young children. Children are often caught up in the throes of big emotions. And for good reason – biologically, their brains have not developed enough yet to manage their emotions any other way than “big.”

One of the things I do as a parent, then, is to help my kids navigate their big feelings. To be a port of calm during their emotional storms, to help them name and tame their emotions, to model how to handle frustration, and to love them the whole time.

I strive to hold space for my children.

When my three year old daughter is kicking and screaming on the floor about (what seems to me like a minor) upset, I sit quietly and calmly nearby, occasionally reassuring her that I am there and I love her, sometimes helping her verbalize why she is upset. I am present, I actively listen and help her process when she is receptive. I let her know that her emotions are valid, they are ok, and I am here for her.

When my seven year old son is frustrated about something, I sit and listen, empathizing when possible and reflecting his feelings back to him. I try to reserve my suggestions and judgment so that he feels heard, not “fixed.” I let him know that his feelings are valid, they are ok, and I am here for him.

Of course I’m not always perfect. Sometimes I just wish my daughter would stop screaming. Sometimes I even scream back at her because I’m at the end of my parenting rope. Other times I wish my son would just take my advice and do this thing that I know will work. But I keep trying to hold space for them, and I get better at it the more I try.

One of the benefits to holding space for kids? Once they’ve felt heard, once they’ve been given time to process, calm down, and connect, then they can better absorb one of the lessons you’ve just taught them – that there are healthier ways to manage stress. You are the role model for that lesson!

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Photo Credit: Image modified/adapted (added words) with permission from Blondinrikard Froberg via James Watkins via Flickr Creative Commons

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