We all have our pet fears, but whatever the specifics, the root is usually the fear of having to experience certain feelings. This often has its origins in childhood. We all want to avoid the feelings that were overwhelming to us as children.
For example, if we are subconsciously still trying to impress our parents, it’s possible that this habit comes from a fear of rejection - which would have very serious implications for a small child who is unable to survive without a caregiver. Therefore the fear of rejection is overwhelming for the child and it becomes embedded, carrying on into adulthood. Similarly we might harbour fears of abandonment or being emotional smothered, we may fear failure or even success, and would that we could locate the source, we may find all this started in our earliest years.
One of my favourite games when stationary in a traffic jam through a town or city is to study the passers-by and try to deduce what kind of child they were. In some people it’s difficult to tell, they inhabit their grown-up persona completely, and yet with others, the child they were is writ large, it’s easy to recognise the traits that defined them when they were young. They wear them as plainly as the clothes on their backs.
Growing humans is a delicate matter. Try as we might to develop, grow and mature, I’m afraid that whether superficial or buried deep, the heart and soul of the child we were lives on, and wields power, despite our best efforts.
The flip side of this is, of course, how we can try to prevent such unwanted baggage being carried forward into adulthood by our own children. It can help to encourage open conversations around emotions - including our own. We can share stories of overcoming our fears, but without negating the importance of the emotion itself. Children need to have their feelings acknowledged and validated, and then to see for themselves that they have no reason to become overwhelmed by them.
This isn’t an easy fix for anyone. Emotional maturity is a long and arduous quest, which some of us never complete (I’m looking at you, Mr. Trump) but with patience and persistence we can help our children learn not to be overpowered by their feelings, so that they can grow up free of buried fears that never leave them.
I was recently reminded of ‘The Liver Birds’ the 1970s sitcom starting Nerys Hughes and Polly James (check) as a couple of flat sharing girls carving out their own lives in Liverpool. I was around six when it first came out. I remember sitting at the top of our stairs with a pal from school ‘playing’ the girls. It was my life’s ambition to move to a city and share a place with a girlfriend. It’s commonplace now, but at the time such an arrangement was anything but. The Liver Birds were so different from any other portrayal of women on television at the time. They were my heroines, showing me that I didn’t necessarily need to marry a man to get out of the familial home and on with my life. I loved them.
We can’t achieve anything that we can’t imagine ourselves doing. It sounds obvious, but it’s easy to forget how potent this truism is when it comes to our children. How our children think about themselves, how they imagine they are is the most powerful influence on how they think about their own future.
Here is another in my series of articles based on conversations with children, first published in Teach Early Years magazine. In each piece, I focus on one prominent theme. For this one, it’s POWERLESSNESS, which seems especially apt at the moment. My thanks to editor Jacob Stow for allowing reproduction, and if you want to know more, details of this and their other magazines and resources are available at: https://www.teachwire.net
- Is there anything you don’t like about being a child?
- You have no control because you’re not in charge. (L - male)
I interviewed this little boy with his mother and I’m sure you are well able to imagine her facial expression on hearing his reply. There was good humour in her silently letting me know that it didn’t always feel that way to her.