The power of connection

A while ago I posted a couple of posts about helping children deal with intense feelings. Today I felt inspired to add to them with a part three.

As usual, my inspiration came from observing my daughter who is now almost 5 years old. I noticed that she was going through a phase where she seemed to getting angry regularly. Most children get angry if they don’t get what they want, for example a new toy or that extra piece of cake. But there are times as a parent when you notice that there’s more to it, the anger is about something deeper.  

I wrote about anger in both of the last blogs, but I’m going to write about it again because I think it’s an emotion that many of us feel really uncomfortable around. It’s often met with a lot of judgement, both from those on the receiving end and also those expressing it.

It’s very easy to condemn the person expressing it and try to get as far away from them as possible.

But anger is a response to something much deeper. When we are hurting and afraid what do we do? Unless we are completely comfortable with feeling hurt and afraid we lash out. Project our feelings outside ourselves as quickly as possible to avoid the pain. So there is a lot of fear in there as well.

Some of us don’t lash out though. Some of us were taught it’s not OK to express anger and so instead we try to stuff it down. This is where addiction and depression can come in.

So how do we help our children learn to deal with anger in a more healthy way?

It is said that the two wings of awareness in enlightenment, the two things we most need as human beings, are to be understood and to be loved. In essence – connection. 

These are the two most primary needs a child has, and fulfilling them when a child is struggling with anger is incredibly powerful. 

A simple way to do this is to wait for a pause in the anger, or until it has subsided enough for us to step in with a question, and then ask these simple words:

‘Where does it hurt?’ Without judgement and from a place of true compassion. 

Offers an invitation to the child to stop for a moment and allow themselves to feel where the pain is. What we want to be able to do is hang out with the child and help them to discover what it is they really want. Hopefully this will lead to the child talking about it and this will help them to understand themselves better and also help the parent understand their child.

There is a lot of anger in the world today – compassion is lacking in so many ways. I am reminded as I write of a story I heard someone tell about a person who approached a dog and reached out to pet it. The dog lurched forwards, teeth bared and the person leapt backwards and cursed the dog for its aggression. A moment later the person saw that the dog’s paw was caught in a snare and in a flash realised the dog was aggressive because it was hurting.

If we can ask the question ‘where does it hurt?’ more often and try to understand, we will help ourselves and others so much. 

In the next post I’ll write about asking ourselves the question and how doing so can help us heal deeply.