Today I had the pleasure of spending a few minutes with a small child.  She must have been around two years old, she had long black hair, dark eyes, dimples, and an incredible smile.  While it made me think of my girls and how much I love them, it also made me think about the innocence of youth.

Children are born innocent and depend on their parents for food, and love. They do not know about the world and trust instinctively trust adults will take care of them, guide them, and protect them.  As they grow they learn not just how to talk, walk, run, play, and interact with their family, they also learn how to act and how not to act.  They receive positive and negative reinforcement based on their actions and little by little learn right from wrong.

Children are also exposed to their parents and siblings behavior, and emotions including anger, resentment, frustration, feeling separate, fear, as well as love, joy, charity, faith, compassion, integrity, peace, empathy.  These impressions make their mark and are stored within their minds and hearts.

Soon enough, kids start preschool and have interaction with other kids and learn how to play, and are introduced to an extent to social rules and dagmas. When one kid wants a toy that the other has, or is mean to another child feelings of separation, jealousy, frustration are learned just as much as joy, fun, cooperation, and belonging. These are natural emotions and it’s good for children to start feeling them.

Sometimes the feelings kids have are strong and they come home from school and act out what they have experienced, as well as tell their parents what happened.  Things like Johnny took my toy and would not give it back, all the kids were teasing me and calling me names, or I hate Susie because she never listens to me….

As parents we need to listen and let the children know that these feelings are ok. These feelings are very real, and its important the children begin to see that emotions are signals as to what’s going on inside their bodies and minds.  This way they can begin to process the feelings and then let them go.

Many parents in this day and age have marital problems and the percentage that gets divorced is all too high. When kids see their parents fight they experience pain.  I am not suggesting that parents should fight in private but be aware that their actions can and do affect children. Parents fight about all kinds of things ranging from money, not sharing household responsibilities, drinking, sex, pressure, in-laws, promises not kept, and the list goes on.  Young children might not understand why their parents are fighting and assume the fight is about them.  Worse they could internalize values like lack, fear, anger, frustration and these feelings will be locked away in their minds only to resurface later when they are teenagers and adults. Thus it is important parents to be aware that their behavior is observed by their children.

When children hear their parents argue, it is not uncommon for them to have bad dreams. When this happens it’s a signal for parents to evaluate their behavior and take positive action. First they might look within themselves to identify the emotional baggage they carry from their past, acknowledge it  then forgive themselves and all involved. Next, they might want to consider couples counseling to work out their problems. Third they should communicate with their children and let them know the arguments were not about them and that they are loved.   This is an opportunity to teach the children about life.  The worst thing that can happen is that children grow up with negative feelings in their hearts as this pain will resurface later in their relationships. The best thing that can happen is children learn how to deal with their emotions and live with love and peace.

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