© Michelle Chan
[Warning: This post may be triggering for some parents/adults, especially those who may have experienced trauma or abuse as children.]
A lot of times, most parents and adults forget how difficult growing up can be. So instead, most of us do a quick flashback of our childhoods, remembering a general sense of it being happy and/or easy. But what if we really sat down and thought about about our past experiences in more detail? Let's be honest, who has the time, or want to make the time, to think that far back? However, if we are to truly understand the children in our lives and be empathetic towards their struggles, we need to take time to reconnect with our own inner-child.
If some thoughts are already surfacing, you know what I'm talking about. However, if you're sitting there rolling your eyes or scoffing, would you mind taking a little trip back to the past with me for just a few minutes?
Exercise I: [2 minutes]
Think back to when you were a child and how things were at school, at home, or in the community. If it's hard for you to think that far back, I totally get it. Just try your best. Think about how your relationships were with your parents, with your siblings, with extended family members, with friends/peers, with adults in your community. Was anything occurring in your community that made it better or worse for you on a daily basis? What were some of your favorite and happiest memories? Now, what were some of your worst or most painful memories?
Did anything come up for you?
Exercise II: [2 minutes]
Teething? Ouch! Having to take out your baby teeth to make room for new ones? Yikes! Learning words and vocabulary in your daily life and in school? That's a lot of hard work! Figuring out family relationships and dynamics? Confusing! Differentiating what is appropriate or inappropriate behavior depending on the location, who is there, and the circumstance? What?! Navigating social relationships with peers? Oh geez!
If all of this doesn't make your head spin, I don't know what will!
Exercise III: [3 minutes]
Think back on how the people around you made you feel when you went through difficult emotions that were hard for you to manage on your own. Did they take time to listen to you and express empathy to help you feel better and more positive? Did they minimize or dismiss your concerns or your feelings, and/or neglect you? Did you ever think that if when you grow up, you would want to react the same way and make someone feel the way you were made to feel? Or did you ever think that you would never want to act that way and make someone feel the same way you did at that moment? How have you been responding to your own child(ren) when instances arise? What are the memories you want your child(ren) to have of you? How are your actions making them feel? Safe? Heard? Loved? Protected? Or is it something else?
Thank you for taking the time to engage in some or all of these exercises with me. I know some of it must not be easy. I hope this helped you get a glimpse of what your child might be going through. Think of this as a necessary first step to fostering a close or an even closer bond with your child.
"Each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children." - Charles R. Swindoll