It can be magical being almost five years of age, but also a little tough at times.
Going for a walk with a heap of cousins over the New Year holiday, my youngest son asked me to help him put together a decoration using a sprig of holy, a twig, some berries and a little violet coloured flower. The end result was a colourful but very fragile construction that soon began to fall apart. The little flower ended up on the slide at the local park, where it was picked up by my son’s four year old cousin, who plucked the petals off.
At this my youngest began roaring insults at his cousin. His voice and temper got bigger and bigger and his face redder and redder. So I took him from a walk and let him shout it out. When he began to calm down I asked him if he was okay. ‘I’m angry’ he said and began shouting again.
‘But what about the happy stuff we did over the holiday?’ I asked when there was another pause in the shouting. ‘Is there any happiness about the holiday inside you?’
‘There is. But I’m still angry. Stupid broke my flower.’
We walked on for a bit more and then my littlest one said. ‘I’m more happy. But I’m still angry. He broke my flower.’
After a few more steps, my son stopped and asked me if I wanted to know a secret. I said I did and knelt down beside him. He put his mouth against my ear and whispered ‘I wanted to cry when my flower was broke.’ I gave him a hug and was tempted to tell him it’s okay to cry and it’s okay to be angry but figured he heard me say that often enough over the years. Instead I asked him how he was doing now. ‘I’m happy,’ he said and gave me a big smile.
I still don’t know what was worse for my son - seeing his flower broke, wanting to cry or feeling himself starting to lose control of his temper – but he had no sooner found the words to express himself than he went off again to play with his favourite cousin, the just turned four years old flower breaker. The big cloud had gone and all was sunshine again.
Talking about our problems and fears is essential to our wellbeing throughout life from four years of age to a hundred and four. I can only hope – and trust – my children will keep developing that skill as the years roll by. So happy new year everybody. Keep talking, laughing and looking after your friends and family. For more info on the benefits of having a good social support network check out the Mayo Clinic article: Social support: Tap this tool to beat stress
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