Those moments when our children start crying or having a tantrum can be challenging ones. We are often encouraged to end our children’s tears as quickly as possible – through fixing the problem, or distracting them, or finding other techniques to help stop them crying. Kate Orson’s book Tears Heal, focuses on allowing our children to cry and express their feelings. I was recently offered a copy of the book to review and was interested in finding more about this particular approach to parenting.
Letting my children cry is not something that comes naturally to me at all. My instinctive reaction is to find a way to stop their tears. Sometimes I find myself getting frustrated and angry – especially if the crying seems to be over something that seems very trivial to me or if I have no way of “making it better.”
Tears Heal suggests that allowing our children to cry and release their feelings helps them to become happier, more confident individuals. It allows them to express the big feelings that they may not always have the words to express. By letting our children cry and listening to those feelings, we can build closer connections to our children and perhaps reduce some of the challenging behaviour that they might use to otherwise express those feelings.
Kate suggests using four tools from the Hand in Hand approach to parenting, to help parents listen to their children:
- Staylistening – staying close and allowing our children to release their feelings – listening but not trying to fix or distract or encourage the child to stop crying.
- Special time – short periods of focused child-led time.
- Playlistening – using ways of making our children laugh while allowing them to be in control to help them release tension and express their feelings.
- Setting limits in a gentle way while also listening to our children’s feelings.
For me, one of the things that I really took away from the book was the acknowledgement that parents also need to be able to express their emotions and be listened to. I think one of my biggest frustrations as a parent is the frequent feeling that my voice is not heard, that I am not listened to and that some days I feel like I might as well be talking to myself! Kate uses the analogy of flying safety instructions and the need to put your own oxygen mask on first before you can help others. She suggests using listening partnerships as a way of helping meet our own need to be heard and to express our emotions.
Since reading the book, I’ve certainly become more mindful of my children’s tears and tried harder to give them that space to cry and express their feelings. It hasn’t been easy – their need to cry and express their emotions can often outlast my willingness to just sit and listen, but I do feel that my children are opening up more to me. Jessica, in particular, often seems to keep her thoughts to herself and since allowing her to express her tears more fully, she has become more chatty and is gradually telling me more about the little moments of her day.
It’s made me put my phone down more, forget the to-do list for a while and try to really focus on having those moments with my children, playing with them and using play to help them express their feelings more. Sophie seems to have fewer tantrums and I’m sure we’ve had less instances of feeling the need to resort to time out.
Making sure I am present and really listening though can be exhausting and overwhelming at times and I’ve certainly become more aware of my own need to be heard. I’ve yet to explore listening partnerships as an option but I’ve been more open with hubby about those times when I just feel overwhelmed and need to talk (without being offered advice) and if I can’t express my thoughts verbally, I pour it all out on paper instead which I always find helps.
Anger management has always been one of my biggest struggles too – I can get very shouty when I am cross and there are many times when I find it a struggle to keep my anger under control. Since reading Tears Heal, I’ve noticed I’m becoming more aware of my trigger points – of the moments when I start to feel overwhelmed and irritated. There have been a few times when I know I would have ended up shouting before, but instead have given myself a bit of space to take a few deep breaths and refocus. It doesn’t always happen – there are still moments when I go from 0 to angry in what feels like very little time at all, but it is definitely getting better.
Whilst I wouldn’t go so far to say that Tears Heal has transformed my approach to parenting – it has certainly had a positive impact on it and is well worth a read.
Tears Heal is available from Amazon in paperback (£13.99) and Kindle (£7.99) editions.
Disclaimer – I received a complimentary copy of Tears Heal for the purposes of this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.