Behavior is the communication of an unmet need.
When 8 year old Wolfie, returns to her mom’s house after a weekend at her dad’s house, she is anxious. She cries uncontrollably for her dad. She demands for her mom to explain “Why?” “Why can’t I be with my dad? Why did he leave?” and “Does he still love me?” After a few minutes of actively listening and verbally acknowledging Wolfie’s feelings, her mother says, “I hear you babe, you’ve got some big feelings about this.” She notices Wolfie begin to calm. Her arms are wrapped around her mother and she isn’t crying any longer. Her mother checks in, “Are you feeling better?” Suddenly Wolfie blurts out, “I want to sleep in your bed!” Wolfie’s mother instantly becomes paralyzed by her daughter’s new desire—it’s taken a lot of tolerance for her to hold space for her child in the midst of her sudden emotional breakdown.
Wolfie co-slept with her mother for the first few years of her life, but for the past few years has been sleeping through the night in her own bed. Has her mother failed her in some way? Did co-sleeping damage her child? Perhaps Wolfie needs discipline or a boundary? The divorce is over, and Wolfie’s dad moved to California a year and a half ago, what can her mother do but explain firmly to her child that this is the new normal; this is what she will have to learn to deal with. All of these frantic and fear based thoughts race through her mother’s head, before she catches herself, and breathes deeply.
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