(Part 1 in a 3 Part Series)
By Kate Jobe
The ability to communicate ones emotions and thoughts in a way they can be understood by others is probably the most important component of successful relationships. Succeeding in communicating your emotions and thoughts and then having them acknowledged and supported is equally important, regardless if you are an adult or a child.
Learning the Language of Your Child
An interactive communication skill set begins at birth and evolves as your child matures. Remember when your child was a newborn and his cries confused you, maybe sometimes frightened you because you lacked the skills to interpret the source of them? Not knowing whether he was trying to communicate hunger, pain, a soiled diaper, the need to sleep or a need to be held created frustration within you. Over time, as you watched and listened, you began to learn his language and eventually instinctively understood the nuances of his cries.
Each child develops and interacts with individually unique behaviors, challenges and perceptions. Added to this, a child may be born into a family at a time when family dynamics have changed or evolved since their siblings were born. Divorce, grief or trauma, new step-parents or a profound illness may have become a reality for them that did not exist previously. Because children are like emotional sponges and generally lack the skill to create boundaries, they may be acting out the emotions of a family member who is repressing their own pain, anger or grief. Children often respond as though they are high frequency radio antennas that pick up on the discord of every emotion around them. With no way to discern whether the source for the emotions they are feeling is related to them, or to someone else, they experience overwhelming confusion.
Loud Messages Spoken Without Words
Without the ability to understand and communicate their emotions and thoughts, a child may respond in one of the following ways:
· She may feel isolated and fearful, even ashamed, and then shut down and withdraw.
· He may perceive that he is not supported or is not important and may blame you for not comprehending what he, himself, does not understand.
· She may respond in anger with the expression of behaviors that can be harmful to her and/or others.
Ironically, each of these responses is a form of communication. Each of these responses is communicating to you that your child needs you to find a way to reach through his communication barrier to find the words he is unable to express. Most children do not respond well to being asked, “What is wrong?”, “How are you feeling?” or “Why are you acting this way?” In truth, your child probably does not know the answers to these questions and is just as confused by his behavior as you. Creative, but uncomplicated, methods are often needed by you to find the answers that will assist both of you to interpret the language of his behaviors.
In Part Two of this series, “Creating Communication,” I will discuss several solutions to this dilemma.