Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Lost Art Of Comforting

How We Love: Discover Your Love Style, Enhance Your Marriage
I am going to be honest with you, my dear reader, and admit with some fear and trembling, that I have had to learn how to comfort my children.    I used to think that comforting consisted of a kiss to make it feel better and a hug here and there.  Unfortunately if this is all of the comforting we are doing with our kids, we are contributing to a nationwide problem of adults who continue to battle with nasty side effects in their relationships of controlling, manipulating, lying, excessive anger, and avoidance.  I certainly do not want that for my kids.  So I had to learn how to comfort. 

I actually stumbled onto the subject when I was reading a book entitled, How We Love by Milan and Kay Yerkovich.  While their intent was to save marriages from divorce, they inadvertently began schooling me in the art of comfort.    They report that 75% of us were never comforted as children, which leads to all kinds of problems.  But what if we could learn to comfort our children?  I believe that our generation can not only reverse this trend, but begin to heal our society by healthy relationships and acceptance.

Here are some basics:

The power of the ear- I remember once I was listening to a teacher at a church who admitted to us that he was a worrier.  He said he got sick and tired of people telling him not to worry because it never made him stop worrying.  Something clicked with me, because as a fellow worrier, I had received the same clich├ęs with the same results.  But what if someone asked me to explain what I was worried about?   Would talking through my feelings make them seem more manageable and less overwhelming?  And then it hit me.  When one of my children was afraid of the dark or afraid to ride their bike, I would just say, “You shouldn’t be afraid. There is no reason to be scared!”  Well a lot of good that did!  Instead I needed to ask about their feelings. I should have stopped what I was doing and asked why they were feeling this way.  I should have asked them to describe their feelings to me.  And then I should have taken the time to listen and validate them.  As I have begun to do this with my kids, I have noticed that it may not take the bad feeling away, but I feel so much closer to my kids and they in turn feel closer to me. 

The power of touch- I still feel very vulnerable when I am upset, but I have come a long way.  I remember when we were still living in Russia, we had to make the decision to give birth to our baby in Russia or come home.  One cold Moscow day, we traveled to a hospital that someone had recommended to meet with a doctor.  After a tour and a long interview, we discovered he was just out to make a lot of money.   I was so upset afterwards, that I cried and cried.  I remember my husband grabbing my arm and holding me tight outside as I leaned up against the cold stone of the hospital building.  Even though I was still frustrated and scared, just feeling his arms around me gave me reassurance that he was there for me.  I was an adult when this happened and so that goes to prove that we do not ever outgrow our need to be held.  Once your children are too big to pick up, you need to find the nearest couch and let them crawl up in your lap or let them lay their head in your lap.  Your fifth or eighth grader would never ask you to hold them, you just do it.  Let them cry or be upset as long as they need and let them break away from you when they are ready. Continue to stroke them while you hold them.   Even though you will probably feel completely helpless with their strong feelings, you are sending a powerful message to them of love and concern. 

The power of time- My family moved during the summer between my seventh and eighth grade year.  And to add insult to injury, my dad was also the principal of the same school I would be attending.  Talk about feeling very uncool.  The summer was horrible, until my aunt whom I idolized came for a visit.  She was five years older than me, beautiful, and always knew the right thing to do.  She ended up spending lots of time with me driving around, shopping, and just hanging out.  I will never forget how wonderful those few days were.  It made all the difference when I was facing that dreaded first day of school.  We can do the same for our kids.  When we know they are struggling with something, spending time with them is precious.  I remember a speaker once sharing a story about how an uncle who took him fishing.  The time was so special to him that he remembered it thirty years later.  When you spend comforting time with your child make sure that it is just the two of you and you are doing something that your child enjoys.  Make it a relaxing time and do not hurry to get it done so you can get back to your schedule.  Leave your cell phone at home or turn it off.  Twenty years from now you may not even remember what happened, but the events will be burned into your child’s memory.  He will feel loved and treasured by an adult he loves and trusts. 

What are some ways that you have learned to comfort your child? 

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