Dr Gordon Neufeld, child development psychologist, shares through his decades of research that true rest, play, tears, and unconditional love are key elements of a child’s early development.
We have seen through our own research that these are the arenas that most adults have a difficult time allowing for themselves. Could it be that the needs of a child are just that of an adult?
Though they may look different as we age, the essence is the same- the need for rest and repair, unfiltered play and expression, sacred containers to process feelings and an opportunity to be seen and loved as we are.
We are witness to the impact that our unmet needs as children has on our adult lives. Those needs are actually just as necessary in adulthood. What does it mean to have our essentials taken care of? Why is it so important that we honour those needs?
We share more below –
REST — Despite the busy, activity filled schedules we have come to know today, rest is an essential part of a child’s development. This is not only adequate rest of the physical body, but rest of the emotions and mind where they are not expected to be anything for anyone. The moment they step out of the home, there are a new set of rules that they may be expected to comply to. A certain behaviour may be more greatly favoured by those around us in public spaces. And this doesn’t change as we move into adulthood, whether it be around a certain group of friends or family, in our workplace, at our children’s school.. the list goes on and on as to how much we are ‘on duty’ to perform and adhere to a set of rules in any given environment. Rest is vital for our repair, reflection, release and renewal — both as children and adults.
PLAY- How often are children playing in today’s world with strict timelines, limited creativity and adventure, and in constricted spaces? Remember those days when we would venture out with our bikes and come home as the sun with setting? When we would knock on a neighbour’s door rather than setting up a play date? We all need to play, FREELY. When our imagination comes alive without constraints, we have the ability to create beyond the mind’s capacity. The sense of freedom, fun and creation that comes from play is vital to the health of both a child and adult.
TEARS — Do we find ourselves interrupting the experience of a child by trying to stop their tears? Consoling them too quickly, or telling them what they should believe about a situation? Could this be because we didn’t have a chance to become comfortable with our emotions as a child and would rather dismiss that of our children than allow them to be fully processed? Tears are essential to all of our lives. What is buried will surface or leak out sooner or later — allow them to come, so that they can be released with grace and ease rather than allowing for build up over time. This will lead only to unproductive behaviour that feels unexplainable over time.
UNCONDITIONAL LOVE — Do we sometimes feel we are loving our children conditionally? If they behave a certain way, we accept them. If they achieve or obtain accolades, we recognize them and love them harder. How much does this play out in our own adult lives? We often judge ourselves for making mistakes. We compare ourselves to how someone else may be living life. We beat ourselves up for not being perfect or loved for those who can’t love themselves. Authentic love for self is the only path to true love for another. It is not until we can see ourselves fully that we will be able to see and love our children fully.
Let’s remember as we move through our own adult lives that the child whose most essential needs — rest, play, tears and unconditional love — still lives within us. And until we can nurture and love that child within, we won’t be able to connect and love a child on the outside of us.
We simply can’t give to another what we don’t give to ourselves first. Let’s nurture in our children what we wish we were able to carry into adulthood — this is from which our genius and aliveness comes forth.