Thursday, February 13, 2014

Responding to childhood tears

I try to read Kveller fairly regularly, and though I don't always find something interest, this post really stuck out to me.  It's about saying 'You're OK' to our kids when they cry, to soothe their tears and help them move on.

She makes an excellent point about emotional maturity and how we respond/teach our children to deal with their fears, scares and frustrations.  I'm afraid that we are definitely guilty of the 'your're ok' talk with EG.  However, I think we take it one step further and replace the words with food sometimes.

I'll give you an example:

Last night was a rough night.  EG had a terrible night the night before, waking up soaking wet with a crazy poopy diaper.  This is very uncharacteristic for her, pooping at night is definitely a sign of trouble.  After clean-up and cuddle time she tried to settle, but 2 hours later just ended up in bed with me.  So, it was no wonder that when 6:15pm rolled around last night (before her 7pm bedtime) she was at the end of her rope.  We all know how sleep deprivation of the tiny compounds into big problems.

I've got her in the bath and she's refusing to sit down.  She chose a bath over a shower, but now, she wants nothing to do with it.  I struggle for a bit with her, as tears are streaming down her face.  Of course I care, but I also don't want to get wet and don't want her to slip in the bathtub.  I pull her out, cover her with a towel and  yell out the door to Working Dad "I need M-I-L-K" because I know that will fix her tears.

But why?  She didn't ask for a baba.  She wasn't screaming for milk, just for comfort from her tiredness and her unhappiness.  Yet my solution was to give her food.  Yes, she did need milk (she'd only had 6 oz that day, and no cheese) but that's sort of besides the point.

It's like how this weekend when Working Dad left the house to help his sister move, and EG had burst into tears, his answer was to give her some Challah.  Now, we know she loves Challah.  And it was 10am, a typical snack moment for her.  Her breakfast had been eggs, fruit and turkey bacon, so it's not like she'd had to many grains or carbs.  But again... that's not the point.

I partly regretted that EG stopped nursing because I know that it can be such a comfort to a toddler.  But now I worry about our tendency to comfort her with food.  I'm not a particular comfort eater, though I definitely can get into a mode sometimes.  Working Dad is more of a comfort drinker, nothing excessive, but he reaches for a beer when he's stressed.

I know that comfort eating can definitely have an impact on her as she grows. Will these really young tendencies carry through?

What do you think?  Do you tell your toddler they will be 'ok'?  How are you managing the difficulty of teaching them to express/know their feelings?  I found this from Vanderbilt- maybe it's time I educate myself and Working Dad on helping EG express herself and know whats happening for her.  Especially with baby #2 on the way, I'm sure the world will only get easier the more she can understand.  

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