We were on a camping holiday at the beach for a few days, and this had allowed my husband and I to spend a lot of quality time with our son and daughter. On the second day, our daughter, who was two, was starting to get upset easily, not wanting to share with her brother, and generally not being happy. At first I was thinking, why is she upset? She has had some really fun happy times with us, there are lots of new and fun and different things we are doing together… we are on holiday!
Then as I thought more, I realised that she was responding to the added closeness, and using that safety that we had built over the first day of our holiday, to offload some of the tension she was carrying.
So, as we were playing on the beach, she started to get quite aggressive and was knocking over all the sand castles we had built, and throwing sand at us too. This was really upsetting her brother, and wasn’t very pleasant for any of us. I recognised that her behaviour was a signal for help, and that bringing a limit would give her a pretext to start crying.
So I moved in close, to gently hold her and set the limit of no more throwing sand and knocking the castles down. Immediately she threw herself down on the ground and screamed and cried. I was expecting this outburst, and was feeling relaxed and unhurried, so I had plenty of listening time and love to give her.
I stayed close, and she didn’t ask me to go away, but she kept asking for her dad, who was right there, about a metre away, yet she wouldn’t go to him herself, acting as though she was stuck to the sand, kicking and screaming and yelling and crying. Her dad could see she needed this cry too, so didn’t come over, just stayed where he was playing with our son. I reassured our daughter that she was safe, that her dad loved her and was right there, and that I was going to stay here too. She didn’t move from her position, even though she could have, which told me she was using the little bit of distance from both her dad and me, to allow her yucky feelings to come out. I kept verbally reassuring her that we right there, while she cried hard for about five minutes.
After this time, she sat up, and came over to me for a quick cuddle, then jumped up and went to play with her brother and dad as they built more sand castles and dug holes. She was relaxed, and happy and able to play well for the morning. I was grateful that I could listen and help her release the feelings that were affecting her behaviour.
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