Picture this –
You walk into the kitchen to find your child sobbing, soaking wet with milk. An empty jug and a completely dry bowl of cereal sit at her feet.
What emotions is she projecting? Hysteria. Frustration. Impending Doom.
Entering the situation, you can either choose to:
a) sync to the emotion in the room and begin yelling and rushing to clean up the milk and the child.
b) take a few seconds to close your eyes and see this for what it is. A mess that can be cleaned up. A child in need of love and comfort. You come into the room with your calm confidence and let her synchronize with you.
Can you sense in your body how different those two outcomes feel?
This is the skill I have been working on throughout my motherhood journey. I’m certainly not perfect at it, but what a difference it has made for me to hold space for my child.
When a parent “holds space” for a child he/she intentionally holds on to their own calm emotion, no matter what is happening around them which allows the child to regulate more quickly, slow their heart rate down, and adopt their parent’s emotion.
There are lots of ways to “hold space” but here are 3 specific examples.
- A parent sets the tone for a kind, curious, and judgment-free interaction where the child can be vulnerable, and like the term says, “have space” to feel the feelings and let them go.
- “It’s okay to feel sad about making a mistake.”
- “I know it’s hard to leave. You were having a lot of fun.”
- “New things can be really frustrating. Just take your time.”
- A parent deliberately holds on to their calm emotion while entering a space that is chaotic, hostile or confusing.
- “It sounds like you two are working hard to solve a problem. Let me know if you need any help.”
- “Show me one of your creations that you’ve been working on.”
- “Can you help me understand what happened to your bedroom?”
- A parent respects the difference between an adult and child brain, while holding on to the knowledge they have acquired to confidently make decisions for the family.
- “I can understand that you want to get a phone. You can want one, that’s okay. We can keep talking about it and decide together when it’s the right time.”
- “You love cookies. We can make some cookies tomorrow after dinner.”
- “It’s okay if you don’t feel ready to go to sleep, it’s still important for your body to rest.
Remember…It’s okay to just hold space
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