Dr. Stanley Greenspan on Understanding the Impact and Role of Pre-symbolic Experiences and Memory for Children with Developmental Challenges
Emotion Happens To Us
Emotions Need To Be Felt
Emotion Seeks Expression
Play is the Answer
In Dr. Greenspan’s book Growth of the Mind, he talks about how conflict resolution cannot happen when adults cannot see the gray areas. That is, many adults have polarized views which come with strong emotions because they “cannot hold in mind several different feelings, label them, and see the connections among them” (p. 236). The key is building the functional emotional developmental capacities as a foundation for such higher capacities.
Adding It In
Similarly, Dr. Greenspan says, “Children who tend to act out their feelings need to be helped to learn to picture their emotions and desires, and those whose thinking easily becomes polarized need to learn to tolerate ambivalence in the linking of feelings of disappointment and loss with satisfaction and achievement.” (Growth of the Mind, page 237) In other words, they need to “add in” the positive to balance the negative feelings.
We need to let our children know that their feelings do not define them. We need to accept responsibility for our young children’s behaviour rather than expecting them to control their behaviour before they are capable. We need to know that their feelings need to be spontaneous rather than controlled with expectations of rewards or punishment.
Dr. Greenspan often talked about how important it is to be loving with our children and to not be angry or upset which frightens them. This, he says, will cause anxiety and fear which will alter their capacities to develop the way a confident, soothed, nurtured child will. This is difficult for some parents to believe because of how they were raised, but it is backed by developmental science.