We often say stop digging when people are prying into our lives or when they have said something they shouldn’t. It’s a common phrase and one I’ve come to think of in a much different light. When I became a parent, through adoption, I didn’t think I would also become a detective. I love crime shows and read a lot of crime fiction but trying to unearth what might be driving my children’s behaviour wasn’t something I anticipated doing.
If you are a teacher or work with children and young people in some way you will know what I mean. The behaviour or symptoms that you see on the surface are often masking the real feelings underneath.
The iceberg exercise comes to mind. You know the one. Where you see the things on the surface so let’s say anger is the tip of the iceberg but underneath that, what’s driving that, what the anger is built on, is often something completely different. Sadness, loneliness, hurt, grief, rejection – all manner of emotions and feelings under there.
When we don’t put on our Sherlock Holmes deerstalker then how we react or respond to a child’s behaviour can just compound those hidden feelings and make the child feel worse, and in turn the behaviour can get more difficult to manage.
In my work with schools over the years and now in family support this phrase – keep digging – is my new mantra. We need to get to the root cause of the challenges for a child or family and support them to address those before any outward behaviour can change.
For myself as well I need to keep digging into my own reactions to situations – step back, take a breath and reflect on what might be driving my feelings and reactions too. With my children (not children anymore – 18, 19 and 21) I still must do this often. How can I support them to develop their own understanding of the hidden drivers for them?
To help others then maybe we need to start with our own iceberg. What is driving us? When we are triggered to react in negative ways to others – why is that? What are the hidden or even blatantly in our face emotions that are unprocessed for us? Grief, loss, disappointment, resentment? Wow didn’t think this blog was going to go in this direction!
Whilst I’m writing this blog I’m in a busy coffee shop in the centre of Birmingham. I love being in a place where no-one knows me – sounds like I’m famous!! What I mean is that being in a new environment can often show us new things, help us to feel new things. I like that and I am aware that it doesn’t invoke anxiety for me, as I was fortunate to have a solid foundation to my lifes’ iceberg. Not so for my children. They worry whenever they go to a new place and meet new people. Doesn’t need much investigating to know why. The chaos, abuse and neglect they experienced when their little bodies and brains were developing has left its’ mark.
Think of those children and young people you come across daily. They may be in what you would consider a happy home right now (or maybe not) but consider when they were younger – what did they experience then? What was underneath their iceberg? When they now come into your busy environment what might they feel? Not what are they showing you i.e. the anger or indifference, but what might be underneath the surface?
So, deerstalkers on this week – keep digging and when you find that root cause do all you can to allow them to work through those feelings. We can’t fix peoples’ past of course, but we can create a space for recovery – a non-judgemental, safe place to work through those difficult feelings and to let them know that we see them – all of them!!