The term ‘holding space’ is thrown around alot. But you may be a little unsure what that actually looks and sounds like with kids??
Today I’m breaking it down for you and sharing about my experience with ‘Monday-itis!’
At it’s core, holding space is simply listening to what your child is feeling. Just listening.
Sounds simple right? But it can be a challenge for a few reasons!
One of the big ones being that (of course) you don’t want to see your child feeling upset or hurt. You probably tend to want to jump in and cheer them up, make it better or fix things in some way. And this often seems like the kindest and most helpful thing to do.
When you do this though, you’re actually robbing your child of a really valuable opportunity to process the emotions that they need to. Those emotions will then be suppressed or pushed back down to deal with again later either in the form of tears, tantrums or challenging behaviours.
And I get it. I’ve jumped in to fix things many, many times myself. So I understand the desire to ‘make things all better.’ And I absolutely understand if you need to do this sometimes! But I really wanted to share with you the value of holding space when you can.
Holding space is not fixing, rescuing, distracting, blaming or shaming.
Holding space is being there with your child to listen.
It can be a bit scary to let go of controlling the situation and simply listen. When you trust in this process it gives your child the opportunity to process and release everything they need to, rather than bottling it up. Afterwards, your child will feel so much more ‘themself’: clearer, calmer, more cooperative, more loving, more patient because they’re no longer carrying around that build-up of emotional energy that was clouding their behaviour.
On Monday my 9 year old didn’t want to go to school (a case of Monday-itis). We were sitting on the couch togerther and he started saying things like:
“I don’t want to go.”
“I hate school.”
“You can’t make me.”
This brings me to the second reason we often jump in to try and fix things, which is out of fear and a need to control.
You might find these types of startements from your child triggering and slip into a fear-based state, feeling powerless, not wanting to lose control or needing to manage this quickly, etc. You might be worried about ‘giving in,’ being late, missing school or getting stuck in endless negotations with your child so you try to avoid the conversation althogether.
You might try and cheer them up, minimise, coerce or distract them from what they’re feeling through saying things like:
“It’s not so bad, you’ll have fun!”
“All your friends will be there.”
“Don’t be silly, of course you need to go to school.”
“It’ll be okay, let’s go and have some breakfast now.”
“If you go to school, I’ll buy you an ice cream afterwards.”
Although it can be uncomfortable and it can feel inconvenient, I’ve found the most effective way through these kinds of things is to breath, consciously let go and listen reflectively (mirroring back what you’re hearing from your child).
It might sound something like this:
“I’m hearing that you really don’t feel like going today.”
“It’s a bit hard to get back into the rountine after a fun weekend, isn’t it?”
“You really don’t want to get dressed just yet. I understand that.”
“You really want to stay here and cuddle. I would love that too!”
And all of these things would be said with presence, love, warmth, eye contact, gentle touch etc.
So you’re really welcoming your child’s emotions and offering empathy.
If your child is younger and not saying so many words, their upset feelings might look more like tears or a tantrum. And you can still respond the same way. Mirroring back what you think they’re most likely feeling.
99 times out of a 100 when I respond this way my son is able to process and release all that he needs to and once done he’ll make his own choice to go to school and get ready without any kind of power struggle.
If you have any questions or would like some support with this, I’d love to hear from you! You can take a look at my online programs or get in touch through my Facebook group and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.