"Pain is such an uncomfortable feeling..."
I apologize for my absence on this blog. I had a severe attack of sciatica (comes with old age I guess).
What occurred to me while lying flat on my back, afraid to move, was how often we feel we must protect our children from pain. Not so much the scrapes and bruises, which are the result of everyday play, but those big hurts, like teasing, bullying, divorce, and death.
As a parent we seem to feel the need to protect our children from hurtful situations, when so many times we are shielding them from the realities of life. I'm not talking about catastrophic illnesses, that's a totally different area. Nor am I speaking about the infliction of physical pain from another child. I'm referring to the many unsettling incidents our children are subjected to.
Death is a hard one. Explaining death to a 3-year-old who has no concept of the idea is difficult and heart wrenching for an adult. Honesty is a good way to start. You may not have all of the answers but answering questions as openly as possible sends the message that this isn't a subject to be avoided.
A child needs to be as much a part of the grieving process as the adult. I'm not suggesting you should take them to a funeral unless you, as the adult, are comfortable with that. But the process should be explained as simply as possible. Family and friends gather to say goodbye and remember the deceased's life. Any religious beliefs should also be explained. Again, answer questions honestly.
Teasing and bullying, though not as traumatic as death, still cause distress to a young child. It is a direct hit to their self-esteem. Coping with constant teasing or bullying can easily stress a child beyond their abilities. Find out exactly what the teasing is all about and perhaps help the child learn to ignore the source. Talk to the teacher or day care provider and engage their help.
We cannot protect our children from the "slings and arrows" of life but we can teach them to manage unpleasant events. Jumping in and solving the problem, either by becoming argumentative with another child or parent or by removing your child from the environment only masks the problem and does not create healthy self-esteem.
Teach by example, offer advice, problem solve with your child and, above all, be ready to see them hurt and show them love and understanding when it happens.