My older son’s closest friends from nursery are all going to school in September, bar one. At the same time his very best friend’s family are moving to Canada, so he is really coming face-to-face with that kind of loss for the first time.
It has been bittersweet to watch him coming to grips with it. The nursery started talking about the transition around the beginning of summer, so he has been intermittently relaying information to us about who is going to which school, and so on. He has also started to have some disregulated behaviour in the last month or so – night-time fears and huge screaming fits about tiny things. I think they’re related.
What I’m wondering is whether, if you took two otherwise identical children, but one had never experienced loss and the other one had learned to deal with it, which one would be better prepared for life. Do small traumas such as this make it easier to deal with bigger traumas? Or is golden, uninterrupted happiness the best defence? Does facing them early make you more resilient or just more bruised?
The respectful parenting approach, which I cannot truthfully say I’m following, but which I try to emulate, says the parent’s role in times like this is mainly to listen and make room for the emotions. It’s not to try and ‘fix’ it – for example, tell him about how he will have many friends in the course of his lifetime, how nice his remaining friend is, how it’s an opportunity to make new friends, etc.
So I’ve been trying to stick to the truth (‘he is not going to come back from Canada’) and not tell him how to feel particularly (‘you must be feeling sad’), but try to make him feel like I’m hearing him regardless (‘you’re thinking a lot about your friends lately’).