How to talk to your child about important events.
As a therapist I might have a certain bias towards talking. Based on my experience I know how important talking, conversations can be to help a person move through traumatic events. And I know how important it is for adults to talk to children, even very young children about changes. A move, an upcoming absence of a parent, a death of a relative... Life events that can ruffle up our lives but that we often do not talk about with our young children. ''But she won't understand. She is too young.' This is a typical adult response when he or she does not think about talking to the child about those major life event. I would respond: 'Exactly. It is because she does not 'understand' (in 'adult' categories) that it is of the greatest importance that the child is addressed, spoken to about these major events. Not necessarily in 'logical' terms. If not addressed the message that the child might be getting is that he is just an 'object' that can be 'moved' like a car (in the case of a move,) someone that is not affected by the sudden absence of a family member (travel for work/ death). It is as if he gets the message that he does not have an inner life. These implicit messages can be quite detrimental for the child's growth. It can also affect the relationship with the parent, the sense of connectedness. It might lead to acting out,behavioral issues that might be quite incomprehensible for the parent, and might spiral out of control to frustration of both parent and child.
This is important for even very young children. I am reminded of a child who moved as a 6 week infant into a new home. After this move the child seemed 'depressed.' Indeed, this young child went through an experience of loss. The newborn child who is just starting to attach to his caregivers, attaches to the caregivers in the sensory context of the environment. Dolto pointed out that for the baby the mother and the father are a mother and a father in this particular house, environment. When the family moves, the baby 'loses' the mother and the father from the old house, and needs to addresed about this. If this is not addressed the symptoms the baby might be showing might even imitate, or appear as symptoms of autism.
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