Teaching little kids emotional coping skills is a difficult task. Especially when those skills are so badly needed, at such a young age.
I always struggle with it. I put pressure on myself and, subsequently, quite often end up kicking up my own arse over the things I’m not sure I’m doing correctly.
I’m not even sure there’s a correct way to do them.
It’s easy to monitor the physical accomplishments, the ones that can be metered out loud. Learning to read. Tying shoelaces. Toilet training. Finally being tall enough to go on the rides at Luna Park.
The emotional stuff is never that simple.
You can teach your kids the words for different emotions, but you never know if they’re able to use those words when they need to. You can build your child’s confidence as high as humanly possible, but you have no way of telling, really, if they’re still insecure.
You can talk to them, explain the world in a million ways. But you can’t be sure they’ll believe you. You can show them the ‘right’ way to cope, over and over again. But you don’t know if they’ll pay more attention to your conscious efforts… or what you happen to do, unconsciously, when you’re not paying enough attention.
The things you let slip through when you forget you’re supposed to be trying really, really hard.
A play date we had planned with the Chop’s oldest friend is cancelled at the last moment, and he’s understandably devastated.
“Remember when…” He starts to say to me, then his sweet little face clouds with worry and he stops. “No… Let’s not talk about that.”
That startles me, disturbs me in ways I can’t quite articulate. “Why…? Is it because it hurts, talking about how it used to be?”
The Chop regards me seriously. “I’ll whisper it to you.”
He jumps up on the lounge next to me, grabs my face in sticky fingers, and whispers into my ear, loud and wet. “She used to be my best friend.”
All I can do is hug him. “I know. She still is… You just don’t get to see each other as often, is all.”
He regards me sceptically, then disappears into his room to perfect his Gangnam Style moves.
I sit, where I am, on the lounge. I feel like I’ve missed something, like I didn’t do something quite right there.
But I’m not sure what. I’m not even sure I know what the right way to do this is.