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People – Teaching Your Children
naturally innocent and trusting. How do you teach them about hurtful people? Here's what expert Roxanne
Volume VII #
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BetterHealthBytes is delighted to welcome returning guest author and expert Roxanne Livingston, M.A., author
of Chronically Hurtful People: How to Identify and Deal with the Difficult, Destructive, and
Disconnected. Her articles for us on Chronically Hurtful People are among the most popular articles we
have published. Happily, here is her next contribution:
Children to Have Self-Trust when Encountering Hurtful
I have been asked a
number of times, how parents and other caring adults can help children be aware of hurtful people in their midst,
and avoid investing their trust in such people. My answer is, “Children are born with the capacity to know
when something feels unsafe.”
That somewhat flippant remark may be true, and will
continue to apply as children grow up, at least for children who have the good fortune to have had adult caretakers
who supported their feelings and intuitions, and regularly validated their experiences. Unfortunately however, many
well meaning parents and other involved adults, undercut the natural intuition and instincts of youngsters without
realizing they are doing so.
While I would never claim that practicing the ideas I
share below will protect a child from all danger, I do advocate these practices as ways to reinforce a child’s
innate ability to trust his or her own feelings in any situation. When children develop a good sense of self- trust
regarding their everyday experiences, they are more likely to know when they feel uncomfortable in certain people’s
They are more likely to trust their perceptions enough to avoid some of these situations and people. They are less
likely to self-blame when they have been fooled by hurtful people, and less likely to self-criticize over negative
These practices are for everyday life, everyday hurts,
joys, fears, sorrows, irritations, disappointments, and any other emotionally tinged circumstance. When our
experiences are accepted and we connect with our genuine feelings, we are better able to navigate life in such a
way as to be on our own side, our own advocate.
Listening with Concern, and Validating are two of the
foundational skills I recommend to parents, teachers and others.
1.Listening with Concern
means just that, hearing what the child is telling you. A child feels heard when caretakers show
interest in what is being conveyed, looks directly at him or her with interest and compassion, and gives reassuring
evidence that they got the message the child was sending. It is often helpful to paraphrase what the child said or
conveyed. Sometimes it is necessary to find and name a feeling for the child.
2.Validating means letting children
know their feelings make sense. It does not mean the parent or caretaker agrees with a child’s
assessment of what just happened that provoked emotions, but serves to calm a situation by letting the child know
his or her stress was understood and accepted.
You notice eight year old Justin has been unusually
quiet when he comes home from school. You want to know if something is bothering him, but he has never
been that verbal so it is hard to tell what might be causing this behavior change.
Avoid cornering him and trying to pry it out of him.
“Justin, I am tired of your being so closed off and quiet. What is going on? This is really frustrating
me. Is it school? Is it your friend Bill? Is it the teacher? What is it? I’ve had it with
your quiet ways.”
Avoid ignoring the situation altogether and hoping for
Practice Listening and Validating with
“Justin, I see you are being a little
more quiet than usual. I wonder if there is something bothering you , or if you are worried
or sad about something.” This is listening to his body
language, and naming what you think might be the feelings underlying what you are seeing.
”It makes sense to me that you
would be a little quieter than usual if there is something going on and whatever it is might be hard to
talk about or share. I am here for you. “ This is validating
that you get it that there is a good reason for whatever he is experiencing.
Your six year old daughter wanted to be on her first
soccer team with her good friend, but that team was already full. She is crying.
Avoid minimizing her distress, disregarding it
altogether, or changing the subject or shaming.
“Oh for heaven’s sake. It isn’t a disaster that you aren’t on
the same team. You get to do so many other cool things, I wish you wouldn’t make such a big deal out of this one.”
Or “ Grampa has been sick lately. That is something to be upset about.”
Practice Listening and Validating with
“Ava, I see you are really disappointed that
you aren’t able to be on the same team as Lizzie. I can see why that bothers you, I would be disappointed too
if that happened to me.” In this
example the parent is giving her child a name for the girl’s experience. This is empowering for children, to know
their feelings have names and are real.
Just as babies learn to trust both their own
experiences of hunger and discomfort when they are fed and nurtured well, older children learn to trust their
various emotional experiences and needs when these are listened to, named , supported and
Roxanne K Livingston, M.A. is the real deal: She's
made chronically hurtful people the focus of her professional work, and come out of it with the essential nuggets
we each need to recognize who these people are and to immediately initiate certain key self-care strategies when we
do. Happily for the rest of us, she is sharing this life-saving information in her new book, available by clicking
on this title: Chronically Hurtful People: How to Identify
and Deal with the Difficult, Destructive and Disconnected or going to Createspace/3697008. We suggest you get a copy and memorize what she's discovered - it
could save you a lifetime of pain and suffering (this is no
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