Listening to My Son’s Upset Helps Him with a Goodbye

Our week had been really busy, with family visiting, including my two year old nephew. My two children had played really well together with their cousin, however, with my son, there always comes a point in family visits, or holidays where the feelings he has become overwhelming for him. Even excitement, often viewed as a positive emotion, can be really hard for him to handle.

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So, on the last morning of the family visit, my son was obviously upset about saying goodbye, and went off track, not playing well with the others anymore, and doing little things he knows he shouldn’t, and I’ve learnt when he does this it’s signal that he’s asking for connection.  Even though I could see this, I was also busy getting a few things together so my extended family could go to town and catch their train to the airport. I needed to swap a car seat over to another vehicle and casually mentioned I was off to do this.

My son followed me, really agitated that I was going to take his seat out of the car and put it in his Grandma’s car for his little cousin. I tried to explain they weren’t keeping it, it was coming back soon etc, but as he was feeling so disconnected, I guessed he was in no state to think clearly and listen to any of my reasoning. I decided it would be in both our best interests to listen to this upset, and see where it would lead. Perhaps I could help him release some of the tension he was feeling.

I calmly explained that I would be taking the seat out of the car. He immediately jumped up and sat in it, yelling and telling me “No! You can’t do that!” I kept saying yes, I was going to take it out, but not actually making any move to do so, all the while keeping my voice warm and kind. He started pushing really hard against the edge of the seat, yelling and crying for me not to move it, even though I wasn’t yet. I thought to myself that this was a positive step for him, and I was happy to help him and had the time and head space to listen. Also, we were a little way away from the others and I knew we wouldn’t be distracted at all.

As his sobs eased off, I made a move to unclip the seat, and he started up again, yelling and pushing me away and pushing the car seat down to keep it in place. I listened in this way for about five minutes, offering connection and my love, until he stopped crying and looked up at me, asking if I still needed the seat. I said yes, his cousin needed it, and could I take it now please? He agreed, and hopped out of the car while I unclipped it and he watched me put it in the other car, now quite happy with what was going on!

My son was visibly more relaxed, and ran over to his Grandma and told her we had put the seat in her car for his cousin! Then he went and joined in the game the other children were playing with their fathers. He was happily sharing, inclusive, and also able to express his sadness verbally about saying goodbye to his cousin, aunty and uncle.  I knew that my morning at home with him would now go a little more smoothly too, and it did. 

I was thankful I had the time to listen to my son's upset about his car seat, and that I had the knowledge of how to listen, and why I needed to listen, so I could help him return to his usual happy self.

Lyra L'Estrange, certified Parenting by Connection Instructor, QLD, Australia.

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