I’ve lately been asked to help out a few different parents with homeschooling registrations and others with just general support as someone to talk to because they are feeling isolated with their kids’ special needs. It’s very rewarding helping out with knowledge I have gained over the last 8 years, but I have a stand out lesson that I’ve learnt. Something is wrong with our society. Well lot’s of things, but I only have time to write about one!
There is this pervasive understanding that kids build resilience and toughness by being pushed past their comfort zone relentlessly. Now I’m not talking about the times when parents lovingly and encouragingly tell their kids to “keep going, it will be OK” when their kids are a little scared. I’m talking about making kids experience traumatic experiences over and over in the belief that eventually they will ‘get over it’ and be just fine.
Today (and every week) was what finally made me feel I need to write about this. We have swimming lessons on Friday mornings. My older son has a private lesson because the time of day means that there are only group lessons for toddlers. My toddler is still in the pool with me for his lessons.
Mr 2 is not a big fan of this teacher and clings to me the whole time, unless the teacher is busy with another child and then he’ll do what we are supposed to be doing. The guy is nice enough, but he’s young and believes his training makes him the boss of my child.
I will not hand my child over to him if my child isn’t comfortable with it. Yet the guy does still try to take him off me at times. I have firmly told him that he’s not going to win that one. I can tell that the guy believes me to be some kind of hippy dippy coddling kind of Mum. So what?
He’s done some kind of child education course in teaching kids to swim. I’ve done years of research on child development and mental health.
But… and here is the problem…not all mums have my confidence and experience. Many of the mums of kids in the next level up (where the parents no long enter the pool with their kids) find that their kids cry and scream when left at the pool side to fend for themselves.
I have noticed that when this occurs, the teacher tells the mums it would be better if they left the area so the child can’t see them. What?! OH MY GOD! I have such a huge issue with this! We have this belief that if we leave our kid somewhere screaming and crying and walk away; the kid will be fine. You know what? Yeah they will eventually stop crying and get on with it. Do you know why? In a lot of cases it’s because their little brain comes the conclusion that there is no point crying for help because no help is coming. Yeah, it’s a form of resilience I guess. It’s called trauma survival. It’s not real, confident resilience.
Today when I saw this happening to a little girl, I couldn’t help it. I went over to the visibly upset Mum and said to her,
“You need to do what you feel is right for your child. You don’t have to listen to the teachers.”
She looked up and said, “she’s never cried at the lessons before, she just doesn’t like the male teachers, and she’s scared of his beard. I don’t know whether I should ask for a change of class. If I go to reception again they are going to think ‘oh no here’s that woman again!'”
I asked her what was more important, what people thought of her, or the feelings of her little girl. She decided I was right and walked over to the teacher and her crying child again. She spoke to the teacher, he said something to her and she sat back down again, her child still screaming and reaching for her.
Bam! There you have it. Like many mums she trusted that what the teacher knew or was telling her was the truth, and right rather than trusting her own instincts! It’s so very sad. And so very wrong!
This has been the same theme over and over with myself previously and all the parents I’ve supported recently. They believed that the Drs and professional mental health specialists they were talking to honestly understood what was best for their child. So they ended up sending their children to school each day until the trauma became so bad that now they are in crisis and their kids have anxiety disorders that need medicating and the kids brains are actually changed… forever. Or at least for a really long time and not changeable without some really full on hard work and love and support, but it’s basically ruined their childhood.
The frustrating thing is that as soon as these parents realised that the professionals are giving them the wrong advice (and there is plenty of research behind this by the way, not just me making crap up!), they are so broken down they don’t know what else to do.
Then the parents begin researching for themselves and finding all the evidence and studies that these professionals should have been using in their advice! Despite all this, in this country we still believe that kids have to be educated in one way and they must be compliant and keep at it in order to toughen up and build resilience.
Now I gotta go and stop my two from killing each other over there in the lounge room and get the big one to OT as he’s on his road to recovery from all the trauma he had as a young kid listening to teachers and professionals!
Note: We have found many wonderful and very knowledgeable and helpful professionals and teachers on our journey, it’s just that they are definitely in the minority!