Navigating Preteen Emotions With Compassion
This week I took my daughter to her “talk doctor”. That’s what we call our therapist. She is the most beautiful, compassionate human being I’ve ever met. I admire her very much. As the three of us sat in session the topic of harming one’s self came up. My daughter said that she had not only thought about taking her own life, but she had tried. I sat still, letting my 9 year old explain why, how, and what she was feeling. The doctor asked her what I had done in response, and she said, “My mom really helped me. She gave me a piece of paper to read when I feel like I’m bad or wrong and shouldn’t be here any more.” The doctor asked me what was on the paper and I told her, compassionate self forgiveness*.
I never thought I would be having these conversations at 9 years old, but it was a good wake up call for me as a mother. One day this summer my daughter texted me that she had thoughts about suicide and that she had tried to choke herself. This is when being trained in mindfulness, education, and child development is so helpful. I was able to be calm, discuss exactly what happened and respond appropriately.
When she told me the whole story I was relieved. In essence, her brothers have started to treat her differently, and she has spent the entire summer without anyone to play with. She internalized that as her brothers not wanting her around, and acted out without fully understanding the consequences. I reassured her, affirmed her worth, and took her to her professional go to person to make sure we are on track psychologically.
Our doctor’s response was perfect. She followed my lead, and together we reinforced and provided scaffolding for her emotional wellbeing. Often times we see our children’s self worth dip below a healthy level and these are opportunities for us as parents to give our children tools to stabilize their body, mind, and spirt.
When my daughter came to me I asked her how she felt in that moment and she told me that she felt bad and like she shouldn’t be here. Exclusion and isolation are proven to increase anxiety, depression, thoughts of suicide, and addiction. When I see that my child feels like her bothers don’t want to be around her, and I know what is coming as we head towards the teen years, I can use this as an opportunity to help my child understand the world around her and her own inner landscape.
I talked to her referencing the physical manifestation of experience, the intellectual manifestation of experience, the emotional manifestation of experience, and the spiritual manifestation of experience. First, I explained that boys and girls typically start to gender pair around this age. Her brothers are both wanting to hang out and do guy things, and she still wants to play inclusive games and pretend play. This is simply a stage of development issue. And once she understood that she felt better. Our doctor was great at reinforcing the fact that changing to fit the preferences of another group just to fit in is not being truly authentic to your experience. This really helped her to define what it means to live in her truth.
We all discussed how other people’s opinions are no reflection of someone else’s self worth. This was a big lesson for all three of us. As we sat there looking at this beautiful child both the doctor and I knew there would be people that don’t like her, that don’t want to be around her, or maybe even people that wish her harm. Regardless her worth is never in question.
Finally, to tie back into the spirit we have to reconnect on all three levels. By reading a statement of forgiveness for buying into the idea that there is anything wrong with our personal experience we can then reaffirm our truth. Giving this to my daughter gives her a light in the darkness, something to turn to if I’m not available.
We left our appointment feeling settled and balanced. I am so glad that we live where we do, that we have the resources, community, and support that we have. The fundamental reason that my daughter was feeling so helpless was lack of connection to her peers. I think this is telling us something about a deeper intrinsic need for connectivity in our lives. Rather than running to virtual serotonin stimulators, maybe we should come together more, move more, experience more. I am so thankful to my teachers, my experiences, to the ancient wisdom that lives in us all.
*I learned Compassionate Self Forgiveness as a tool for Awakening at the University of Santa Monica. I highly recommend their programs in Awakening in to Universal Consciousness and Compassionate Infinite Potential.