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December 16, 2015

Tunnel Vision

“Unhappiness in a child accumulates because he sees no end to the dark tunnel. The thirteen weeks of a term might just as well be thirteen years.”
(Graham Greene)

When your baby screams in your arms, your toddler thrashes on the floor, or your teen slams the door, it would help to remember this quote. As adults, we have the benefit of perspective. We know through experience that disappointments come and go, relationships break and mend, and life in general simply goes on. Children, however, haven’t lived enough to see some of those cycles and reap some of that wisdom.

Time literally stands still for a child when he’s in the midst of a struggle. Unfortunately, it is our tendency to jump in and fix things for them because we’ve been there and done that, and we know exactly what she needs to do. But the truth is, we can’t give others our perspective. When we try, we ironically make it harder for them to learn from what it is they need most: experience.

Instead, we should simply be with them, in love, as they too learn about the notion of perspective. We must be careful not to patronize them by dismissing their fears or anger; we should take their feelings seriously and provide a calm and anchored presence for them as they flail about during emotional storms. And, as usual, the very best thing we can do to help our children in this area is to take a close look at how we handle our own challenging times when things seem really dark.

If we can model the notion of perspective instead of lecture them about it, we’ll be showing them that there really is light at the end of every tunnel.

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