Our girls are successful because we make it our priority to be aware.
They demand our attention and love, especially in moments of uncertainty
Because they have emotions too – Shonelle George
My daughter has not had the best digestive record. During this particular week, she did not drink as much water as I would have liked her to. Nor did she eat the fruit options I intentionally placed in her school lunchbox. Those fruits returned home uneaten and eventually found their residence in the trash. Would all the moms with picky eaters stand up!!!! Yup! I see you, sister mommies. I feel your agony, and most of all, I can relate to the stress associated with preparing great meals only to be met with “I want pizza for dinner.”
Being a picky eater comes with digestive issues like constipation. Starchy foods have no respect for your digestive system. Bread and rice have positioned themselves as my daughter’s bff. But they are not good for her tummy. Yet, she continues to keep company with them. During breakfast, for snack, and most frequently for dinner.
When she turned five, I began teaching her how to listen to her body. I told her to pay attention when her body does not operate normally. Our bodies belong to us, and very often, girls are not taught how to learn the intricacies of their bodies. The earlier we begin to teach them this level of self-agency, the more in tune they will become. Listening to her body allows her to notice when things are not functioning well; thus, empowering her to clearly articulate issues that may present themselves.
On this particular day, she had a bowel movement (BM) and as I was walking into the bathroom, she quickly reported that it was “not good.” Of course, I immediately rushed to look, and indeed it was not good, “it’s horrible I yelled.” What have I been telling you? You need more water and you need to drink those smoothies I make for you. You just don’t listen when I talk to you.”
In dismay, she bowed her tiny head and whispered under her 5-year-old breath, “that was insensitive.”
Wow!!! Talk about being put in my place. I felt crappy. I guess that mother of the year award was not going to happen.
As I reflect on this situation, I can’t help but think that my girl felt defeated even before I walked into that bathroom. She was fully aware that she had an issue and felt poorly about it. As her mom, it was my job to be aware and in touch with her emotions because at that moment, she did not need my criticism. What she needed most was:
1. Comfort. It was my job to let her know that it was ok, and all was not lost. It was my job to tell her that she was not a disappointment or failure. At that moment, she needed me to remind her that tomorrow was available to restart. She needed to know that I could comfort her. Mommies, take a moment to reflect on some comforting things you can do
and say when your child expresses heavy emotions.
2. Loved on and hugged. That was a perfect moment for a hug. Present studies have determined that physical touch, like hugs, from people we love, activates the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin is a “feel goo” hormone that sends messages to our brains when expressing feelings of happiness or pleasure. A hug is a form of physical touch that tells someone they are safe. As moms or caregivers, we want our daughters to know that regardless of how distressing a situation may be, they will always find safety in our hugs. Regardless of what mistakes they make, they will always be loved. They need to hear and feel this from us. Take a moment to reflect have you hugged your child
3. Affirmation. At that moment, her feelings and fears were legitimate. She needed affirmation. She needed to hear that she was not facing this challenge alone and together, we would figure out a solution. She needed to hear how valuable she was, using words like, “I love you, we will get through this together, tomorrow will be a better day.”
Our words of affirmation produce positive reinforcement. Affirming her feelings with positive words will create a favorable outcome or response, thus strengthening her ability to feel less defeated when she does not believe she has lived up to her parents expectations (Scott et al., 2020).
4. Supportive Counsel. As her mom, I am responsible for providing guidance and support. It is my job to help her through difficult situations. A more helpful and supportive response offers her a chance to explore alternate options. Criticism is defeating, but support is empowering.
Regardless of what situations we encounter as parents, it is essential to remember that our girls thrive when we validate their feelings and emotions. They are successful because we make it our priority to be aware of what bothers, annoys, and distresses them. They succeed when we support, affirm, and love on them through challenges, disappointments, and mistakes. Our girls demand that we listen to them because they too have emotions.
Scott, H. K., Jain, A., & Cogburn, M. (2020). Behavior Modification. In StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29083709/
Shonelle George is a clinical psychotherapist. Her clinical orientation is focused on allowing individuals to delve beneath the surface of their problems and emotions to uncover the conflicts that prevent them from living their best lives. She also believes in an integrated approach to addressing challenges to wellness. She is passionate about advocating for women and girls, which has allowed her to create psychoeducational and socioemotional workshops that focus on self-esteem/self-concept, relational trauma, anxiety, relationships, stress and coping, and mindfulness meditation. Shonelle is an international workshop presenter, motivational speaker, blogger, and currently serves as the public affairs and media director for 4 Real Women International, Inc. As an advocate, she believes that everyone can become agents of social change in their spaces of influence.