Aap Aur Hum
Monthly News Letter
SANTA MARIA INTEGRATED LEARNING ENVIRONMENT
4- Green Avenue Lane, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi
AAP AUR HUM
November & December 2022
Breaking the Barrier of Silence
There are a number of occasions when we feel the need to shield our young children from unpleasant realities around them, given their tender age. In this process, sometimes, some of us make up stories or give misleading answers to our children. Still others relieved that their children ask no questions, tell them nothing. They assume that if their children ask no questions the happenings around them have no effect upon them. Often, we seem to mistake their silence for peace of mind. Of course, no parent wants to burden a child with details of illness, or mishap in the family which he/she cannot understand. But a simple explanation, suited to his or her age and understanding could help remove the confusion and worries in the mind of the child. Many a time, evasive answers and partial information intensify the child's fears. The child clearly perceives that there is something wrong but feels that it is not right to talk about it. The real problem lies here, in the attitude and behaviour of adults and their perception of the unpleasant realities that threaten children. Instead of the child being allowed to bring his fears, fantasies and confusions out into the open, so that they can be discussed, the child feels repressed. Being quiet about these fears, fantasies and confusions does not mean that these feelings disappear. They continue to be part of the child's unresolved burden of emotional life.
Let us try to understand what happens to children when we create a barrier of silence by trying to avoid talking to them about unpleasant realities.
Raman’s father suffered a mild hear attack and was admitted in the hospital for a couple of weeks. His mother told him that his father was fine and will be home soon. Raman had many things to ask her but she never gave him a chance to find out any further details. Raman felt responsible for his father’s illness since he felt he was harassing his father. He even believed that he was to blame for the heart attack. He carried this burden and a feeling of guilt along with it.
Not all children react in the same way to family crises and difficulties. But when parents listen carefully to what children say, they can very often find out what is on their minds and deal with what may be bothering them. We need to give them opportunities to break their silence and let their worries and conflicts come out, so that they can be dealt with as they arise and in a timely manner.
Take another case, one of parental discord at home and its impact on children who silently bear the brunt. Let us try to see how the parents' can minimize the children's confusion in such a situation.
Anand and Arti were undergoing lot of tension at home. They decided to get separated. Keeping in mind the best interest of their children - eight-year-old Aniya and six-year-old Aman- they told their children only as much as they could. They told them in clear terms, “Both of us love you but the two of us are not happy together. It will be better for mummy and daddy to separate. It does not mean that we stop being your mother and father, or stop taking care of you.”
Of course, such explanations are not going to fully prevent the children from undergoing emotional trauma, but, it will definitely help them to lessen their confusion. The experience of being abused or separation or divorce of parents is a disturbing experience for any child as it as it affects his/her emotional development. Whether or not it will do serious harm to him/her depends largely on how the whole matter is handled. In case of a separation or divorce, a child needs to feel that although his/her parents are not able to live together, they respect each other and love him/her deeply.
Separation, divorce or even continued misunderstandings and fights among the parents are the most difficult things to talk about to children. Many parents - having decided that separating or not communicating with each other even while living together-put off telling their children about the situation. Often, they feel that it may emotionally disturb their children so it should be avoided as long as possible. They do not realize that evasion may damage the child's mind more than the shock of hearing the truth.
Silviya was a six-year-old girl when her grandfather died. Her mother could not bring herself to talk about it, or answer Silviya's questions. Her mother thought that it was best to tell her simply that he was old. God loved him so much that he has taken him away. But Silviya was still troubled that there was something strange about it. She could not sleep properly. She had a number of questions in her mind but was afraid of asking them, or felt guilty that by asking such questions she would increase her mother's grief.
Many parents find it very difficult to talk about death. But by keeping quiet, they only increase the child’s confusion and fears. Normally, very young children neither need nor want detailed explanations. However, if death does occur in the family, silence or evasion does not keep them from realizing that something very pleasant has happened. They also get affected by it.
Parents should give children an opportunity to share their feelings and help them to learn that grief, just as much as happiness, is a feeling one can show and will experience. The important thing is to give children opportunities to ask questions and to express their thoughts and feelings.
Without words, fears cannot be talked about. Parents should certainly not go overboard and tell a child more than he can take but the confusion or the traumatic emotions that result due to silence can be far more painful than the truth.
Children feel much more threatened by the unknown,
by their fears and confusions than they are by facts, no matter how unpleasant they are. Parents need to break the barriers of silence that surround many things, including, death, divorce, illness, sexual abuse, and allow children to talk about their fears and confusions. With the knowledge that they can share their innermost thoughts that are troubling them and can talk to their parents, teachers or care providers without fear of any untoward consequences or reprimand, they develop an enormous sense of security which keeps them well guarded, protected and feelings loved.
Dr Amita Govinda