By Dr. Kaylene Henderson
‘Quick! Look at the plane! In the sky!! LOOK UP THERE!! QUICK!!!’
Have you ever seen someone try to distract a child when they’re hurt or upset? Or tried the same technique yourself? Often people think that distraction is the quickest way to calm a distressed child but in fact, research shows just the opposite. It seems that by not acknowledging children’s hurts or providing comfort when they’re upset we can inadvertently make their distress last much longer.
Not convinced? Imagine this…
You’ve just arrived home after a very stressful day, ready to disappear into the comforting embrace of your partner as you have a good whinge about the state of the world. As you make a start, sensing your distress, your partner suddenly instructs you to look for as many things as you can in the kitchen that start with the letter ‘B’. Hmmm…
Not only would this make you feel extremely confused but it would do nothing to ease your distress. In fact, if you were frequently met with this incongruous response you would learn that there was no point even approaching your partner if you were feeling upset.
None of us would want our grandchildren to think this of us. We want just the opposite. We want our grandchildren to learn that they can come to us no matter what. So next time you’re tempted to point to the sky in an attempt to relieve your grandchild’s hurts, stop. Squat down to their level, mirror their facial expression and say ‘Gee, it looks like you’re having a hard time. How about a cuddle?’.
Because in the end, that’s what really makes everything better.
Dr Kaylene Henderson
MBBS FRANZCP Cert C&A Psych
Dr. Kaylene Henderson is a Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist and Founder of Little Children Big Dreams which provides online help for children who are afraid of the dark or scared of monsters – www.littlechildrenbigdreams.com