Earlier this week my family went to a local park for some fresh air and play time. As my children happily played, many other families arrived, too. The children ran happily from one area to the next. The adults followed and chatted.
After a few minutes, a little one came to the swing set where my children were swinging. I was pushing my youngest and reminding him how to swing on his own at the time. The little one needed help so one of her adults, a grandma, helped. Unfortunately, the grandma’s nail scratched the child. It was an accident and I could see that no harm was intended. As the child grabbed her arm and tears welled in her eyes, the mother said not to worry because “she is fine” and she should be a “big girl”. The mother also tsked away the grandma’s attempts to comfort the child whose eyes were now filling with tears.
Eventually the child got back on the swing and calmed down, but this incident led me to examine a few concerning thoughts. First, is it okay for an adult to tell another adult that harm done, even due to an accident, is okay when a child clearly does not agree? Second, would the mother have the same reaction if a stranger had accidentally scratched the child? Third, is it healthy to ignore the obvious emotional and physical pain of a child in order to avoid our bad feelings about the incident?
I realize the adults in the situation meant no harm. However, children need to be validated so they become confident as well as be empathetic toward others. Adults may think something is a small issue, but a child sees the world differently. It’s extremely important to honor, validate, and work through big emotions in order to help our children become emotionally healthy.
I don’t think one small event like this one is going to upset the balance in the child’s life, however, this is part of an overall pattern in mainstream parenting culture. To be honest, most of us are guilty of brushing off our children’s emotions and concerns at one time or another. This story reminds us, me included, to be more present in my decision making.
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