A Healthy Emotional Diet

with thanks to Mary Heard of simplicityparenting.com

Long after our children are weaned they continue to feed off our emotions. That is why it is so important right now to stay out of our ‘fight or flight’ response as much as possible, to be a safe harbour for our children and to prevent anxiety from polluting their childhood. ‘Simplicity Parenting’ author Kim John Payne explains how children’s learning and development functions can be ‘hijacked’ by stress. As parents our task is to create filters to protect our children from the deluge of adult information, pressures and concerns and to allow them to grow up with a sense of confidence and trust in the world.

We protect our children by regulating our own internal world as well as by being conscious of the adult conversation our children are exposed to. Children do not have the mental faculties to process a lot of adult information. For a young child this information does not prepare them for the adult world, indeed it is the gentle experience of a protected childhood that provides them with the resilience and strength of character that allows them to deal with the harsh realities of life as they grow up. The words of the adult world can be experienced by children as emotional and verbal clutter, what they mainly hear is the emotion running through the words and if this emotion is fear, our children will feel afraid.

So we need to be very careful right now. Just as we would not expose our children to physical dangers, we need to use the same vigilance around emotional dangers. We need to create boundaries around the adult world, taking care of these concerns ourselves and meeting our responsibilities as adults while honouring the sanctity and freedom of childhood. Children need to relax knowing that we are capable of taking care of the adult world for them. We need to be careful that the adult information they receive is processed so as not to cause them any alarm and that they are not privy to any inappropriate adult conversation.

It is so easy in these turbulent times to forget about what is most important, like our children’s emotional wellbeing and development. We do not want worry and fear to pervade the atmosphere of our family lives. We need to be the strong foundation for our children and to move through the world in a way that sets a good example because when they are young it is our actions that really count.

So it is important as parents that we exercise discipline. Simplicity Parenting recommends that we limit our exposure to media that informs rather than alarms. This will help us to navigate this territory calmly and to stay grounded for our children. It is so tempting to get caught up in conversations and media that reinforce our views about what is going on right now but as parents of young children that is a luxury we can’t really afford. We need to put our children first in this situation, to be there for them as much as we can and to be a ‘lighthouse’ for them in turbulent seas.