Since January I’ve been doing some childminding for a friend three days a week. It has caused me to self-reflect more and observe my own reactions closely. In therapy I’ve realised how much even seemingly minor childhood experiences can have a big impact throughout the rest of your life. Now I’m much more aware of how a lack of acknowledging children’s feelings can reverberate and I am conscious of my actions.
It’s also interesting to see how I’m reacting to their behaviour. For example, when they’re not cooperating with what I want, I can’t help but take it personally. I now realise how much patience it requires to step back and try to see the kids point of view. This is probably not news to any parent. My empathy for parents and carers has grown exponentially. Constantly putting someone else’s needs ahead of your own is tough. Especially when you’re just trying to have a poo in peace and quiet.
It requires a lot of self-inquiry to understand that I have certain expectations as to how the kids will react and that I anticipate a particular outcome favourable to me. So when they don’t like something I came up with, I’m a bit miffed. But then I pause and realise, it’s not about me. I have to let go of my expectations. I may have thought this educational game is super fun but to them it’s just boring and feels like homework. It’s a good life lesson to focus on my own behaviour rather than trying to predict how others will react.
Another thing I’ve found interesting when dealing with kids is how to teach them about managing their emotions, or even the ability to talk about their feelings. I often don’t know how to manage my own feelings. How are you supposed to deal with them when you’re only 6 years old? It’s not really something that is comprehensively taught in school. There seems to be a focus on rewarding children for behaviour which makes life easier for the adults, i.e. being quiet. Thankfully things are slowly changing and emotional intelligence, mindfulness and resilience are being included in curricula.
It’s definitely a challenge for me to get the kids to recognise their feelings when they don’t really have a any reference point for them and get overwhelmed by emotions. I’m caught between trying to get them to talk about what’s going on, while at the same time getting them to bed on time or finishing their homework with them. I try to educate myself on issues of how to teach boundaries, fairness, compromise and kindness while also allowing self expression and being okay with sadness, anger and frustration. I constantly remind myself and the kids that those feelings often labelled as ‘negative’ can be useful and are also just part of the whole spectrum of human emotions.
Being around the kids means I don’t have time to stay in my head. I have to be present. This is good for someone like me who tends to get lost in thought which can fuel my anxiety and depression. The challenge when minding the kids is finding time for self-reflection and pausing to check in with myself. But for that I hide out in the bathroom for a few minutes every now and again until I hear my name being shouted.