I’ve been working late a lot this week which means Ella Grace has really been struggling with getting enough mama time.
What that looks like:
- More meltdowns than usual over very little seemingly insignificant things
- Getting really jealous when I give anyone else attention
- Refusing to go to bed and forcing herself to stay up as much as possible
- Whining, crying as soon as she sees meMaking a lot more “defiant” choices
What she’s really trying to say:
- I miss you mama, when are you coming home? Have you forgotten me?
- I miss you mama, when you give other people attention, I feel rejected
- I miss you mama, I haven’t had enough time w you.I miss you mama, I put on my listening ears all day and tried very hard and now that you’re home, I feel safe to finally feel all the things I needed to feel because I know you’ll hold space for me.
- I miss you mama, where did you go?I miss you mama, I’m trying to stay up as late as I can to see if I can wait for you
- I miss you mama, I really need to empty my sad cup so I’m pushing the boundary so you’ll make safe supported space for me.
How it feels as a mama:
Guilty, so so very guilty Heartbroken because I know it’s not her fault and it’s so hard to navigate an adult working world with a child’s heart
Frustrated because I’m exhausted and really looking forward to come home to my usually joyful girl but who’s really struggling
Questioning all my career choices and why I even work and what is the point and can I quit and wah wah wah wah wah!!!!
How I respond as a specialist:
Pour into my empty cup – hold space for me to work through my emotionsJust like Ella Grace, I need to HALT – hungry, angry, lonely, tired so try to give me what I need so that I can give her the mama she needs.
Connect, connect, connect – make time to connect w her in the mornings before she goes to school and if I can, in the evenings too.
Hold boundaries – Allow freedom within our boundaries but don’t change them because I feel bad. Instead, more than ever, she needs the security and assurance of knowing what to expect. Eg. No changing rules, allowing things they usually aren’t allowed to do, change plans, etc.
PLAY – All little one’s love language is rooted in play whether it’s touch, gifts, words of affirmation, quality time or acts of service. Children don’t say “Will you love on me?”, instead they ask, “Will you play with me?”. Making time for child-led play together w no aim other than just to connect is incredibly healing to the relationship.
How to use the PLEASE tool to process her emotions:
Prepare her and let her know who, what, when, how, where, why of her schedule and people so it helps her understand, know what to expect, and feel more in control of the situation
Listen to her big feelings and small things. Take time to just sit with her and listen for what she is feeling, what her concerns might be, what she needs
Really empathize without judgment or control. Trying to understand how she might be feeling and helping her identify all emotions behind her behavior (the iceberg!!!) with love instead of judgment.
Echoing how she feels even if it’s “wrong” or “irrational”. She needs to be heard not corrected or fixed. She’s operating from a hurt place, she wants to feel safe and validated and only empathy can really help her feel less threatened to help her move to her rational/logical brain.
Allow her to feel, tantrum, hurt, cry, scream, or feel whatever she needs to feel. It’s their way of expressing the things they need to express when they don’t have words. Create safe supported space for her to do so – the only rule is that I keep her physically safe from herself, others, and the environment, blocking her, holding her hands, giving her privacy away from others if it’s a public space. I stay with her with as much space as she needs. (This is honestly the hardest part as a mama, to just sit w her, stay calm and confident, echoing and empathizing, “doing nothing” but just trusting her.
When she finally moves closer and is ready for connection and reasoning, that’s only when we have a conversation. We help problem-solve and lead her to find a way to feel empowered in the situation. What can you do when you miss mama? Who can you look for? What can you say? What would you like to do when I come home? What do you want to eat/play/read/etc when I’m gone? Let them lead this conversation, she may only be upset about one thing or she might want to go down the list. It’s completely up to her because it’s whatever she needs to feel like she is seen and heard and safe