Emotional expression, problem-solving and book therapy

Jonathan, his mother and I went to the beach together several times this summer. Jonathan is my first grandchild and is 18 months old. Jenny was excited to introduce him to the joy, peace and happiness that so many people experience at the ocean.

Jonathan was afraid each time. As soon as he saw the sea, he began to whimper while clutching his mom around the neck.  A whimper is described by Webster’s as a low, quiet and broken cry.  Whimpers are unusual for this little boy who delights in adults chasing him down the streets of his family’s small city.

“No wa-wa.” He kept saying as he clung to Jenny’s neck.

On many hot days, holding hands with Jonathan, I walked the hot sand with burning feet trying to get closer to the water or some wet sand.

“No wa-wa.” As he pulled me further away from the cool waves.

I saw his serious and intent face as he watched lots of people of all ages running, laughing and swimming in the waves.

One day back at home, I sat with Jonathan on his couch with a huge pile of books. Jenny has nurtured a love for books in this little baby. At 18 months he chooses his own books. On this day, he brought me a wide, long book called The Wave by Suzy Lee.

The Wave is a picture book about a little girl negotiating her relationship with the sea. The shape of the book looks like a long, wide horizon of water and waves. He has brought me this book to read with him several times.

We sat close on the couch to read the book. He intently looked at each page. He whimpered quietly a few times as I turned each page.

“It’s Ok, Jonny, to be afraid. The ocean is big and you are small,” I responded.

He laid his head on my stomach and really whimpered several times, continual expressions of fear in a little person who is not yet able to say “I feel fear. I am afraid of the ocean.”

I said it again. “It’s OK to be afraid, Jonny.”  He put his head down again on my stomach and made that whimpering sound for about 20 seconds.

Soon it was over and he was laughing and running again, looking over his shoulder to make sure I was chasing him.

I was amazed at the emotional bonding that took place between my grandson and I. I felt successful that I had helped him express his fears without words. The first step in problem solving is identification of and expression of our true emotions with another person; a parent, God or a friend.  The first step in becoming brave is to know ourselves and accept our inevitable fears. The greatest gift we can give another person is to receive and hold their true emotional expression.

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