Harnessing your child’s inner strength to get through hard times
by Sarah Tolmie
As a therapist I encounter many clients bravely navigating hard times. Sometimes this might be in my work in area of end-of-life, facing illness, dying, death and grief; or in my marriage therapy and work facing relationship repair or breakup; or counselling people through personal trauma and challenge. Beyond the immediate circumstances of their distress very often there is an original wound from childhood that has familiar emotional and behavioural ‘echos’ which play out again in the current situation.
Our woundings from childhood – be it a singular trauma event or an ongoing developmental trauma – can play out for healing throughout our life in different ways. Our young selves hold a survival blueprint for how we dealt with pain and hardship that can emerge again later in life. That is the nature of our life & love journey.
But how I wish for my clients I could turn back time so I could have resourced their younger selves with some skills and strategies that could have helped soothe their pain and strengthen their soul. How I wish we could better equip parents and families with these life skills earlier so we could tackle our healing and save us from re-attending to hard lessons.
I am talking about learning skills for emotional wellbeing and relationship resilience. Skills in self-esteem, empowerment and belief. Skills in non-violent communication and advocacy. Skills in cultivating safety and trust in relationships.
Unfortunately for most us, these skills are not often deliberately taught. If we are not taught these skills deliberately, and in a healthy and right way, we will unconsciously learn emotional and relationship strategies from our immediate family and care givers – however what we learn might also be limited and survival-based. It can be a sad game of ‘Chinese whispers’ that dilutes our strength and skill generation from generation until someone breaks the pattern.
Life will deal us tough times and challenges at any and every age and unfortunately we cannot always protect and shield our kids from all of life and love’s sharp, hard, dark and jaggedy edges. Sometimes life and love will be unfair, cruel or tough and we will have to experience hard times and do hard things.
With the right skills, strategies and support however, when life does deal us pain, not only can we survive hard and tough times, we can even evolve and grow through hard times. Even thrive. We CAN DO hard things and we don’t need to wait to later in life as adults to address the wounds of youth.
Like my clients, I too had to learn emotional healing and strengthening skills later in life, and wished I had them earlier.
Take for example the experience of school. It’s tough. It’s not great for everyone. There are bullies – both the kid and teacher variety. Friendships will be confusing and challenging. Kids will fail and fall short of either their own or our expectations.
I had my bully at school. I got through but with scars. Looking back, I wish I had Emotional Resilience skills to protect me better from the school yard bullies and mean girls.
I was socially excluded and singled out for being different, smart, tall, too curly haired. Too whatever! I couldn’t get it right. I got through but with scars. I survived but I wish I had Relationship Building skills so that I could have trusted my sense of self-identity and cultivated safe and real friendships despite the covert and overt exclusion and rejections from the dominant crowd.
When we cannot change others, or our circumstances – or sometimes even the system – (well maybe not fast enough when our own personal triage and wellbeing is at stake) – the one thing we can do is OWN and MANAGE our internal response. We become emotionally strong by developing our inner ‘muscle’ of belief, identity and integrity.
There are some simple and solid teachings that can build this kind of capacity from a young age that can help us ride out tough times. One of the best things we can do is to teach our kids empathy and compassion and understanding how to work with their emotions.
In fact, good teachings on empathy, compassion and emotional intelligence are emerging as a next-level growth essential for many adults. We learnt from our parents, who learnt from their parents, and to be honest, many family of origin blueprinting for emotional and relational wellbeing leaves a lot to be desired. From here on in, to ensure our next generations break a pattern and evolve into greater resilience, we actually need to equip ourselves as parents with some next level skills so we both model AND give deliberate instruction in emotional intelligence and relationship resilience.
There are specific skills I teach my clients in my emotional resilience and relationship mentoring coaching work that focus on caretaking and maintaining good emotional ‘hygiene’, care and wellbeing. These include:
- managing your own ‘personal energy field’
- understanding the nature of healthy and unhealthy relationships
- cultivating strong boundaries
- grounding, protection and centring personal energy
- learn emotional intelligence (EQ) skills and techniques
When both parents and kids can re-learn the powerful language of emotions, we can navigate our emotional experiences and better understand what actions and choices they are guiding us to take. We can teach kids to safely feel hard feelings and move then through.
Sarah has a new online course coming out in the Summer called “How do you feel? Using the intelligence of our emotions to heal and be whole in life & love”. To learn more, visit www.sarahtolmie.com.au
Sarah Tolmie assists people to celebrate, navigate, grow and heal through all their life & love transitions. Her practice focuses on love & relationships, families & children; life success & fulfilment, illness, death & grief. As an Holistic Celebrant Sarah creates profound and meaningful ceremonies for all life & love events. Sarah is also a Marriage Therapist, Bespoke Funeral Director and End-of-Life Consultant. You can visit her website www.sarahtolmie.com.au and Facebook page at Sarah Tolmie – Life & Love.