The other day my daughter’s stuffed animal got “hurt” and she brought it to me to comfort. I did what I always do and cuddled it, rubbed its head, told it everything would be ok, and gave it back to my daughter. Why would I do this with a stuffed animal? Isn’t it just a stuffed toy, a transitional object?
The truth is to my child it is so much more than that. This stuffed toy gives my child comfort, it is an extension of her. By showing that I also love and care for this object that means so much to her, I am showing her that she can trust me with what is important to her. It is a parents way of showing their child they can trust us with their vulnerability. They don’t need to worry about us disregarding the things that are important to them. We love the things that are important to them, because we love them.
Showing our children that we care for their favorite stuffed animal, blanket, car, whatever it is that they carry around with them for comfort and security is a way of getting down on their level to show our love. Children don’t always understand and look at things the same way as we do, by showing we love the things that give them comfort we are in turn showing our utmost respect and care.
What was your object of comfort as a child?
I catch myself every once in a while telling my children to “not worry” when they are scared. It is almost instinctual. As a parent, of course, I wish my child would never have to worry about a thing, but that is not reality. When we tell our children to “not worry” it is like telling them they should not feel scared. We are telling them feeling scared is a bad thing.
‘It is ok to be scared’
Instead of telling our children “don’t worry” when they are scared or concerned about something, we can replace it with something more reaffirming like “it is ok to be scared.” Because it is OK to be scared. We all get scared sometimes and we want our children to learn how to deal with those feelings, rather than to think they are wrong to feel that way.
It is also important that our children know what to do when they feel worried, or concerned, about something. If it is an external concern, such as a suspicious person or animal then we want our children to recognize safety—whether that be going to mom or dad, a teacher, or moving to a different location. By talking to them about what they should be doing at times when they are struggling with feelings of worry they will build healthy coping skills, and learn how to better take care of themselves in situations where mom or dad aren’t present.
Feelings of worry or fear are part of our inner-being. They are important. It is our brain’s way of telling us to be careful, to tread lightly, to watch out. It is a protective mechanism. It is not something to ignore or shut off.
Sometimes that worry or fear is caused by anxiety over something we might not need to be worried about, but acknowledging those feelings and learning how to calm ourselves down is also a very helpful skill. If we can help our children to learn and utilize these skills at a young age, it will help them to be more successful at managing their feelings as an adult.