My son was 5-years-old and had recently started Kindergarten. The first few weeks had gone well – waking up early, getting ready, walking to the bus stop, etc. I was marvelling at how smooth this transition was going when one morning I set his usual plate of honey toast in front of him at the table and he burst into tears.
Not sure what was going on, I stood by his side and put my hand on his back and asked, “What’s wrong?” “You didn’t cut off the crusts”, he wailed. I decided not to offer him another batch of toast without crusts and calmly apologized and said that this was the toast for today.
He sobbed harder, his body shaking. I pulled up a chair, got closer and put one arm around him and breathed deep – sending out calming and loving energy. He continued to cry. After about 15 minutes his tears subsided and it was as if an internal switch had been flipped because his usual, cheerful self returned. He picked up his toast and started eating, chattering on about school between bites.
This was my first experience with Stay Listening and I loved it! No need to say the right thing, counsel, negotiate, or give advice. Being present, listening, and trusting my son’s emotional processing – this felt right!
The next morning I decided to test the process by giving him honey toast without crusts. He took one look at the plate and burst into tears again, “I didn’t want the crusts cut off today!” And he went into another 10-minute-long crying session while I staylistened. Same as the day before once his tears subsided his internal emotional switch flipped and he launched into his day with renewed enthusiasm. I realized that this was the release he needed to offload the tensions of starting school, being away from home several hours a day, and whatever else was going on that week.
—Karen Murphy, Certified Parenting by Connection Instructor in Oregon
Join Karen in her Building Emotional Understanding course on Monday afternoons, starting May 13.