Subject: 2 year old
When my 2 year old daughter gets hurt, she seems to get angry, withdrawn, and absolutely does not want to cry. This is her behavior for getting mildly hurt. If she gets really hurt, then she has no problem crying.
For example, yesterday, she was pushing her baby brother on his swing, and didn't get out of the way in time, and the swing hit her in the forehead... just enough to make a red mark... not enough to knock her down or cause a bump. She walked over to the sandbox, and started forcefully brushing the sand off the edge of the table. She wouldn't answer me when I asked if she was OK, or if her head hurt, or if she wanted a kiss or a hug. She just kept swiping her hands across the table, long after all the sand was gone.
IT looked like she was trying to really focus on swinging her hands across the table, maybe so she would not focus on her head hurting and crying. Other times, I've seen her eyes well up with tears and her lips tremble, and she will be trying so hard not to cry. I don't feel like it's healthy to hold it in. I tell her it's OK to cry if she's hurt. My husband thinks she just wants to be left alone, but it feels wrong to not try and comfort her when she's hurt. I've also noticed in public if she gets hurt, it seems she doesn't want people to know she's hurt and might cry.
Any advice would be appreciated.
Answer: Dear Jennifer:
How do your or your husband respond when you get hurt? How have you responded to her since she was little and moved around and got hurt?
Sometimes it helps to respond to her by saying what you would say to a friend in an empathetic response. "Oh, no, did you hurt yourself?" and match your facial responses to the level of concern you are feeling. Or "Oh, my that cannot have felt good." or any of the same. Then ask her if she wants you to hold her.
However, if she does not respond to these comments you husband is right. She is learning how to emotionally regulate and children often take our cues on how to regulate their emotions (which is why I said to ask yourself how you and your husband regulate your emotions)from the adults in their lives.
It is possible that she wants to handle it on her own so that you will see her as a big girl. Letting her know that even big girls feel pain and cry is a good way to give her permission to feel her feelings and let them out. Share in story form with her what happens when you stub your toe or bump your head. Tell her of times that you have hurt yourself and how it made you cry. Check with your husband to see how he responds to her as well when she hurts herself. It is important she receives the same message from both of you however, more critical that it comes from you as she is the same gender and will look to your for her self esteem and emotional regulation.
Feel free to call me if you would like to talk.
M. Kay Keller