You know the look. That adult’s eyes widen just slightly, the head tilts a bit, eyebrows raise, and the neck jerks quickly… You see the dialogue inside their mind even though they have enough control to keep it inside. “That kid needs to be taught a lesson… Give that kid a good spank… I would never let my child speak to me like that.” Each time I see that look I want to scream! I want to shout with all the breath in my body, “You’re right! My kid does need a lesson. She needs to learn that right now in all of her fear, frustration, her feeling as if the ground is being pulled from under her, she needs to know you will stay steady and you won’t let her fall.”
Whether you have gotten the look at the grocery store, the school hallway, or even from guests in your home, the jab of pain to your heart hits you at the exact same moment your soul deflates and your mind swirls.
Thoughts run through your mind: Should I remove my child from this place/situation? I wish I could run away and hide. Don’t they understand? Why can’t they understand she’s been through so much? How dare they judge me! Oh, little one, I love you so much. I am so embarrassed. What do I do?
Here is what you do. Plant your feet into the earth beneath you. Take a deep breath (or 2 or 8) to regulate yourself, and go to your child. Walk with purpose and confidence. You are not angry or embarrassed. You are Mama (or Daddy) and your child needs you. If that child was bleeding no one could get in your way. Your child is in more pain than any cut or scrape you’ve ever experienced. Go to them! Bend down, look them in the eye and say, “I am here. I am listening. What do you need?”
This is not the time to educate. This is what you have been called to do – be this child’s parent. Meet their need – not the desire of others who are annoyed or judgemental.
Assess your child’s needs in this order:
Step 1: Nutrition and hydration
Step 2: Sensory Processing – think auditory, tactile, visual, proprioception, temperature, personal space. Are any of these bothering your child right now?
Step 3: Co-regulate with your child. Do they need a hug or some deep breaths?
Step 4: Give a re-do. Help your child practice a better way to get their needs met.
Step 5: Praise that precious child and love on them. Praise your child for calming. Tell them you love to help them. Assist them to re-engage with the environment if appropriate.
Now, take some deep breaths yourself and give yourself a big kudos. You are the parent of a child who came from the hard places – and you promoted healing and hope through empowerment, connection, and correction.