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In the previous episode, labeled “Transitions”, I mentioned something that prompted a lot of questions. So I just want to take a moment, dig back in and help to expand this idea and bring some more clarity to what I was speaking to.
How to ease the stress, resistance, & challenge of transitioning with our young children.
One of the most helpful and supportive ways to do this is to develop a daily and weekly routine, a routine that will carry us through each day based upon our child and our own basic needs.
Setting up a daily routine, a weekly routine will also create this really clear background on which to see your child more clearly, to be able to tune in to the truth of what's really going on in that moment instead of being so addicted to our agenda.
I'll share a couple of examples with you because I think they'll be the most helpful.
I'll share one from the preschool so you can see how I move through this with multiple children and then one with my own daughter. So you can see the one on one dynamic.
So one afternoon in the preschool, we were finishing our lunch. I told the children when they were finished washing their bowl that they could go use the potty and wash up as we were going outside into the forest to play.
As we were transitioning downstairs into the mud room, I noticed one boy was just lying on the floor and kind of picking at the rug. So I went over to remind him that we were getting ready and asked if he needed some help.
He turned around and you said: No! And kind of yelled in my face. And then he turned his body around and hit his face and his arms.
I want to pause right here and have you tune in to how that makes you feel.
What comes up for you when a child yells “No!” at you when you're holding an expectation that they follow along.
What is an initial response that you have? A feeling or a thought?
Just the idea sometimes of a child refusing to follow brings up so much judgment for us because we're so hyper attached to our agenda.
What we have planned, what the adult has stated is happening. And we can get so caught up in that and have so many expectations. That a simple “No” from a child can trigger all of these big emotions in our self from our own past that we're not really present to in that moment.
So I just want you to pin that, noticed that. Now back to the example.
I also want to return to the fact that I have established a consistent routine with these children.
This transition that were in has happened many times. And many times I've watched this child move joyfully through it and outdoors.
So in this moment I'm not jumping into judgment that he's being defiant or rude... or into fear and start giving him threats or bribes for him to get up.
I'm just naturally able to be curious instead, because it's out of the ordinary. I felt like, Wow, this is strange. He's normally so excited about the forest. Something's going on that I haven't yet discovered.
He got up eventually, but he went over to the stairwell and began jumping off the steps, like climbing up two or three and then launching his body off onto the floor. Some of the other children started laughing at him, which just encouraged that behavior. So I went to him and told him, you know, this isn't safe. I can't let you do that.
And if you want to go into the forest, you need to come get your jacket on now. He just took off from me and ran over to his hook. And then he threw all the gear off the hook and even the backpack. Like up into the air, and then it came crashing down really close to another child.
So at that point I told my assistant to just move along with the other children and that I was going to stay behind to support him.
Then I very firmly and lovingly stated, I can see that your body is having a very hard time getting ready so you and I are going to stay right here together.
then he was able to lose it.
That boundary was firm enough for him to release. So he started screaming, No, I'm not staying and yelling. Then he threw himself on to the floor into a full on tantrum.
The others were outside, and I just sat calmly and held space for him to release the stress that was built up in him and obviously making it very difficult for him to focus, to stay connected or to participate in what we're doing.
And I said again, lovingly to him, but straightforward. I'm right here with you and you're going to feel so much better when you let all of those sads come out. He cried and he kicked, and he flailed for about 10 minutes. In the whole time, yelling things like how mean I was and how he hated his friends for leaving him. And I was never coming back to this dumb school.
I mean, on and on, because nothing that's coming out of our mouths, I don't care how old we are is based on logic when we're upset. When we're releasing tension, when we're freeing our body of stress, and so it doesn't make any sense for me to latch on to anything he's saying.
I didn't engage with any of it, but I did stay present.
A couple of times I would gently say that I could see him, that I could hear him and I was right there.
Eventually he calmed down and I got him some tissue to blow his nose.
And then I offered to hold him and he climbed up into my lap and I held him while letting him know that we all have big feelings sometimes and that it's okay. The important thing is that we keep each other safe and that we let these feelings go out of our body in a safe way.
He looked up at me and then said, I'm ready to go outside now. Can you help me with my shoes? I'd love to, I said, and we just moved on.
When they discussed what happened with his mom on the phone later that evening, she told me that he had woken up around 4 a.m. from a nightmare and had a really hard time falling back asleep.
That made so much sense to me. Okay, there it is. There's the need that was hidden underneath all of that rascally behavior.
He was overtired. He had woken up scared. Now we are past midday.
He probably really needed to nap at that time.
And instead we were in a transition that required a lot of skill. Getting our shoes on, straightening out our socks, putting a zipper in and pulling it up.
These are all really challenging tasks for a preschool aged child.
And facing those when you're exhausted, can really spin us out.
If I just went through each day deciding moment by moment what needed to be done and what we were going to do, I would have been so caught up in what needed to happen that I most likely would have seen this little boy is just a problem.
I would have labeled him as naughty, defiant or bad, and in my stress of wanting to control the situation may have threatened him with harsh words.
Like, if you don't get up and get ready right now, then dot, dot, dot.
Or shamed him. Why can't you just come along like the rest of the children? Get up. I'm attached to my agenda and abandoning my connection.
We never know what someone else is going through, why somebody is behaving the way they are. But if we understand that all behavior is an attempt to meet a need, then we can lean into curiosity. This goes for any age.
Most of us were raised being blamed for our parents frustrations. If you would just be good and do what you're told, I wouldn't be so stressed out. Right?
So now it's very difficult for us to not take others behavior personally but...
life is so much easier, and relationships are so much deeper and more connected when we can stay curious.
I remember a question that came, and I'm wondering if I can use the example I just gave and twist it a bit to address it.
The question was around the fact that this mother has multiple children and is a single mom.
So my example that I just gave wouldn't really address her situation because I had an assistant.
I had someone that could put their attention on the other children while I addressed the one that was having difficulty.
So what would I have done had I had a group of children on my own...I didn't have an assistant, and I have one who's really needing my direct full attention, which is a very good question and which has happened.
In that particular case, what I probably would have done is been more direct with the child who was having trouble. You know, I see you're having a really hard time right now getting dressed. I'm going to help you to get your shoes on, and then we're going to take the rest of it outdoors and do it together.
And it can be difficult to move a group of children, whether you have three or four or five. I grew up with four little sisters. My Mom was a teenager when she had me and 26 when she had five girls and there was no Dad to be found.
None of our fathers stuck around right for whatever that story is, but a lot of times it was complete chaos because none of us knew what was happening. We were all fighting for our needs, to get met. There was no one really in charge of anything and it was completely chaotic.
here again is where this rhythm, this routine, this holding, comes into play in such a crucial moment.
Now you have one who could either be sick or really having a difficulty or needing support.
The rest of the group of children that I have, know exactly what's happening.
They know they need to line up at the door. They know that we're all going to get on our little rope train that has the little loops that they hold on to for safety as we go across the road to the forest and they're just waiting for that moment.
So I also can turn around and address them. You know, our friend here is having a hard time. He needs a little extra support from us. So I'm gonna hold his hand, and he's gonna help me be the engine on the train and I need all of you to hold on tight and come along.
Children want to be supportive. They want to be in alignment.
So when they see that there's a friend of theirs that needs some extra attention, they will rise to the occasion if they feel safe, if they also feel seen and if you're speaking and connecting with them with respect.
So it's also like you're moving spontaneously in the moment. But you're also navigating that energy and and being a narrator for the story that is being created by everyone in the group.
We're all just like making up our life. We're making up these stories that were telling ourselves, and as parents, we really are the narrator of our child's story until they reach an age where they can do that for themselves.
And if they hear your confidence, they hear your clarity. Yes, you're having a hard time. I see it. I can't help you right here, right now. And this is the steps that we're going to take to be in support of what you need.
Right now there's a group of children who are all waiting to go outside, right? It's important that they do realize, you know, the world does not always revolve around you.
But as we are revolving, I see you and I value you, and we're gonna do everything we can to be there for you as well as everybody else that’s involved.
And so we moved across the street, got in the situation. Then all the children are given a boundary of where they can be, where I can see them, where they can play. And then I can sit and focus and allow the release of a child. And allow the holding that they need in particular.
So I invite you to just take a few moments now and explore your own family dynamic.
Explore how attached you are to your own agenda.
And if you have a habit of focusing solely on your child's behavior and seeking ways of changing it, are you able to feel how this habit is limiting your ability to connect with your child and to see them clearly? I'm happy to keep going into this.
If you have more questions, please send them my way and the more specific you are, the juicier.
So don't hold back sending you all lots of love.