Children don't feel the same way all the time. There are times when they feel strong, while there are times they feel helpless or weak. Sometimes they feel happy, the other times they feel sad.
There are moments when they feel very vulnerable. These are the moments when the child feels helpless, weak, dependent, anxious, stressed, unsupported. These moments of vulnerability are very significant in any child's life, as they can shape the child's personality or, in some cases, future. It is important that parents provide all possible support to their children during such moments of vulnerability.
These moments differ from child to child. But there are three commonly experienced moments of vulnerability in children. They are:
1. Transitions: moving from one set of experiences and structure to another is called transition. For very small children examples of transition period can be going to sleep, waking up, going out for a ride, being with a stranger. Such moments disturb the already acquired equilibrium and thus the infant needs the support of parents to handle the situation. That’s the reason most infants cry upon waking up and feel soothed if the parent picks him. For slightly bigger children examples of transition period can be going to school, coming back from school, going to friends house to play, having many guests are home etc. The presence of parents at such moments gives these children the strength to quickly adapt without feeling any stress.
There are some bigger transitions that affect children deeply, such as shifting to a new house, moving into a new section at school, moving to a new city or country, changing schools. It is strongly advised that parents be there with the child emotionally and physically during such transitions, so that children don’t find themselves alone while moving into a strange and unknown territory.
2. Mistakes: children feel vulnerable when they make a mistake. Based on how their mistakes are handled by the adults and how adults handle their own mistakes, they learn how to respond after erring. Some children start crying after they break a cup, while some show as if they don’t care. How they respond to their mistakes is a great reflection of how they perceive their world.
There are 2 important points to keep in mind here
- All children feel vulnerable after erring, whether they accept/show or not
- We should handle their or our mistakes sensibly, without coming very harsh upon them or ourselves
3. Losses: a loss is one of the biggest threats to the peaceful equilibrium in a child’s life. Loss of a loved one, loss of love of a loved one, loss of time spent with loved ones, loss of a favourite t-shirt, loss of marks scored, loss of appreciation from the teacher, loss of skills due to some unfortunate event, loss of a good opportunity due to some circumstances and the list can go on and on. Children face and fear loss on an everyday basis. Losses, whether small or big, scare children. They feel victimized and helpless.
A child’s big losses can be an insignificant issue for an adult, and that’s when most adults fail to provide the support. In some cases, adults themselves are so scared to face a loss that they end up dismissing the feelings the child could be going through. Ironically, in some cases, adults do so much of reparation to make the child happy after a loss, that the real feelings remain untouched and the child feels unsupported.
These moments of vulnerability can alter the child’s personality or life forever. It is very important to have our priorities and approaches clear, so that we can be there with our kids, physically and emotionally, when they are going through a moment of vulnerability.