The Going Through Things Is The Process

When adults ask me for advice, sometimes they’ll ask about a child who’s going through something that’s legitimately difficult. A big life transition (new baby is a common one), a grief or loss, something traumatic having happened, etc.

They might ask me something like, “How am I supposed to help them process this happening? I thought that we had, but they just keep bringing it up and talking about it over and over.”

Or, “They’re discontent all the time now, they used to be so happy, now they’re sad and melting down at the drop of a hat.”

Or, “They’re so clingy to me now. They want to be held all the time, they cry for me, they stick close to me all day long.”

I sometimes think that these adults aren’t seeing that what they’re describing *is* the child processing it. What the adult is really asking is “I don’t like this stage of my child doing X, how can I get them to stop?” or “How can I make them feel happy again?”
But life is a mix of emotions. It’s not about feeling happy all the time. The going through things *is* the process.

I have been through some terrible things in the past. I have had periods of curling up on the couch crying, of wanting to be close to my husband all the time and not wanting to be alone, of talking about the sad thing over and over. If my husband had been like “Ugh, how do I just get my wife to PROCESS IT and move on already?” any reasonable person would’ve been like…can’t you tell that’s what is actually happening right now?

I know parents just want to do the right thing for their children and I hear the word “trauma” thrown around so loosely in the past several years. Children process things — even traumatic things — by playing, by talking, by pretending, by saying childish/immature things about the traumatic thing, by feeling their feelings every which way, by behaving the way they behave. It’s how they do it. It’s okay to let them.