Listening Through a Family Change

On the day we told my daughter, age 3 1/2, some big news about our family situation changing, the news just seemed too much for her to deal with and she just wanted to go and play.  So we played hard as a family for 3 hours and then she went to sleep.

When she woke up she crawled into my arms and said she wanted to go out for dinner.  She hadn’t even woken up at this stage, so I wondered what was so important about going to dinner.  I asked her and she said she liked going out for dinner.  We had been away the previous week and had gone out for dinner every night.  I think she had really enjoyed it.  I had a guess that she was feeling a bit sad and wanted to do something to feel better so I decided it was time to set a limit.

I said gently,  “I’m sorry darling we aren’t going out to dinner tonight”  She hid her face in my chest and started whining about going to dinner.  I gently pulled her away from me and said to her, ” Oh darling, you really want to go to dinner.”  She looked at me and burst out crying.  She cried for a few minutes and then started to arch her back, which I know is a precursor to her working on her fear and anger.

I sat on the floor and she arched and kicked and pushed at me for 30 minutes.  It was loud and violent and it woke up her dad upstairs.  He came down and sat next to us while she continued to writhe and try to get away.  She was screaming that she wanted me to let her go, but I really wanted to see this one to the end so I gently said, ” I will let you go soon, right now I want you to stay in my lap.  You are safe and have everything you need right now.”

Given the morning conversation, I kept telling her that both mummy and daddy love her, that she was safe and that we would both continue to look after her.  She quietened and looked like she was going to go to sleep, but as she had just been asleep, I think she was just recovering.  Then she sat quietly in my lap.  After that she wanted to stay in my arms for a while so we went upstairs and made some lunch together.  The experience was intense.

I often struggle with restricting her freedom when she is directly asking for me to let her go, but this time it was coupled with my own grief with the family changes. Trying to contain my own emotional issues, so I can hold a safe place for her is difficult when we are both going through stuff.  I felt that I did a good job this time and I held the intention of providing a safe place for her in my arms.

– A Parenting by Connection mom in Australia

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