Holding loving limits for our children is an essential part of nurturing their resiliency and ability to adapt to life.
Psychologist Gordon Neufeld calls this the Wall of Futility. It is when we hold our child in the experience of futility until this is felt as waves in their body.
Supporting our children to feel their futility is vital to engaging adaptation, acceptance and resiliency.
When our children hit that wall, we need to be there to offer our loving support and empathy to allow their tears to fall.
As little humans, children are faced with many situations every day where they feel powerless and when things do not work out the way they had hoped they would.
Through experiencing frustration, our children develop the essential life skill of learning to adapt. Frustration is the portal to resiliency.
If a parent tries to intervene too much or bend a situation to their child’s wishes, they are stopping them from experiencing the life lesson of adapting and accepting disappointment, which leads to becoming adults unable to cope when things happen outside of their control.
Children who aren’t supported to feel their futility and disappointment can become stuck in a negative loop of aggressive behaviours and chronic frustration that has no outlet.
As parents, we must nurture this skill of adaptation in our children and look for opportunities to support them to feel the wall of futility as it arises.
On the weekend, we had been to the local markets and my daughter found a pair of sunglasses she had been looking for a long while. She also bought some small toys with her pocket money.
When we returned home, her sunglasses broke, along with two of the toys. My daughter was feeling waves of upset and frustration and wanted me to drive her back in to replace the sunglasses. She also wanted her Dad to try and weld the bits that had fallen off back on, which was not possible.
It was late, and the markets had closed.
I compassionately let her know we were not able to go out to buy a new pair and that her Dad was not able to fix the glasses, empathising with how much she wished this could happen.
I sat with her as she expressed her frustration at not being able to go back in to replace them, supporting her to feel the futility in her body.
We have a box of tissues that we keep ready to help support us to allow feelings of healthy aggression to flow through the body. My daughter began ripping up some tissues as I held space to allow her emotions to flow through her, and the feelings of futility to be felt.
Then her anger transformed into sadness and the tears began to fall.
I held her in that space for a while as she expressed her sadness that three of her new items had broken.
I could feel her moving into adapting and accepting that unexpected things happen that we have no control over.
After a little while she felt ready to play a card game with her grandparents.
One of our primary roles as parents is as custodian of nurturing the natural flow of our children’s hearts.
To help support your child to feel the wall of futility and nurture resiliency, here are some steps to remember.
Allowing Our Hearts to Soften
Holding our child in the experience of futility, requires that we first feel our own futility as parents in that moment, to allow us to let go of following old parenting scripts from our childhood and enable our hearts to soften, so that we can meet our children in this space. We must connect from the soft place in our hearts to be able to truly meet our child in their heart space.
Holding Loving Limits
We need to hold loving limits with warmth and empathy to allow the futility to sink in. This means helping our child sit within the ocean of frustration without trying to change it, or fix it, or explain it away. Saying something like “I know this is hard for you to accept”.
Holding loving limits supports our child in this process of moving from mad to sad. By softening our voices and facial expressions, we create the safety for the emotions to flow and be released. It allows their emotions to become unstuck, and their tears to fall, which releases stress hormones from the body.
Accepting Emotions to Nurture Resiliency
We meet our child right where they are in that moment and accept our child’s emotions. We encourage our child to feel and express the depth of their emotions without rationalising or lecturing. We meet our child right where they are in that moment and accept the inner experience of their emotions.
Futility is vital to awakening our innate adaptation response, which emerges from the limbic system as an unconscious process which melts armouring. Adaptation is integral to nurturing resiliency in the face of adversity.
Honouring Our Child’s Animal Instincts and Healthy Aggression
As parents, we hold that safe container to help support our children to feel their frustration and anger in their bodies. This is vital to helping that survival energy to flow through their bodies.
We need to help our children channel their energy and direct it to honour their innate animal instincts of fight and healthy aggression.
If your child’s brain is telling them to kick, hit or growl then it’s vital that you honour their biology and find safe ways to support that healthy aggression to move through their body.
This means supporting them to push against your hands or the bed, growling, stomping their feet or ripping up tissues. Tune into what their bodies are showing you and the survival impulses wishing to be completed.
Gently Joining With Our Child
When our child does not want to talk about why they are upset, it’s important to not ask questions or enquire how they are feeling. We can hold the intention of gently joining with them to enable them to feel safe enough to open to vulnerability. If we offer too much emotional connection to soon though it can lead to them slamming shut. If your child is frustrated, use less words, avoid lecturing or teaching,
As parents we must leave our thinking left-brain and enter the heart space of attuning to the deeper needs beneath the behaviour.
Our children need us to meet them in the right part of their brain which governs emotions and sensations. When they are feeling upset, they are not able to access the thinking part of their brains. That’s why we must attune deeply to their body language and emotional expressions to join with them. We are trying to gently touch the little bruises and wounds to help invite those parts to soften and melting the defences from the inside out.
I invite you to look for those windows of opportunity that emerge where you can support your child to practice the life skill of adapting through the wall of futility, to help them tap into their innate resiliency.