We are currently reviewing Simplicity Parenting, using the extraordinary power of less, to raise calmer, happier and more secure kids by Kim John Payne. Should you be interested to read the book, you can take it from our lending library.
This second chapter is called Soul Fever! I remember the first time I read this book, the title got me puzzled. I had no idea where this was going but whilst I read it, there was this feeling of ‘yes, this feels so right!’.
Soul fever, is likened by the author to our children being sick. Rather than sick on a physical level, they are sick on a soul level…maybe we can say an emotional level. The chapter starts by reminding us that we know our children at a very deep level that we can’t quite explain ourselves. We generally know straight away when they are getting sick. We generally also know when they are out of sorts and while not sick, something is up.
Like everything, our busyness, stress and so on, can distract us from our connection to our children and we would not realise straight away that they are getting sick or something is wrong. This is the time when trying to understand what is happening with our children is usually very hard work which rises in us a lot of emotional upheaval as well. So simplifying again helps us to get rid of too many distraction and clutter that take our attention and threaten our connection with our children. ” It’s about giving kids the ease to become themselves and giving us the ease to pay attention. to more fully develop, and to trust our instincts.”
The rest of this chapter is about how we go through soul fever, how we help our children, how we understand what is happening. First we are noticing that something is not quite right. Each child will react differently of course; one can be more angry and blaming, another may withdraw, a toddler will make you truly see they are in discomfort with their tantrums, a teenager might challenge a rule which has been firmly in place and accepted for a long time. Soul fevers are especially felt more in the teenage years as they go from one polarity to the next as they try make sense of their sense of self, belonging and self regulating. When symptoms get missed or ignored they can get worse!
This start about soul fever, gave me insight of current soul fevers in my two oldest. Sometimes, you are in the trenches and you do not see it for what it is due to our own stresses. However, I knew last week that my daughter was overwhelmed. I just held her and let her cry a few times. Life was put on hold till she quieted down. Till she felt calmer and happier again. I can sense her pulling out slowly of it but it is still lingering there. My son, is also going through a soul fever. I can see it with every interaction we make, every time he asks for time alone with me, every time he says he’d like a break from school. And so I try and remedy as best as I can. Re reading this chapter reminded me of what needs to be done. Some things I did them instinctual, others lay forgotten and others still seemed impossible till I went through the chapter again and saw that everything is possible if we truly feel it is important! Being aware gives us so much insight!
After noticing, we quiet things down! The same like when there is a physical fever, we stop the normal routine and take a break till our children feel better. We also do with soul fevers. “…it is time to stop normal routines. Children may resist this, but at times they seem to be almost pulling you to a stop with clingy behaviour and an uncharacteristic avoidance of anything new.”
A simplified, quiet weekend might be enough to help a child through such moments. Usually it is enough as ” it affords enough space and grace to loosen an emotional knot.” We are given examples about his daughter who was in 2nd grade and a colleague of his who had a teen. How the slowing down helped both to get into themselves again.
Next we are bringing them close. Again we are amplifying the importance of going out of the routine and us being more available so they feel safe and let us know what is the problem. Sometimes, we will never really know what was wrong, but for them just knowing we understood something is off and are available for them, is all they need to grow and solve and become more resilient. It is also good to understand when an issue can be resolved on it own and when it needs assistance from other professionals. It is also good to remember that it is easy to care for a physically sick child when you see them listless but extremely difficult to do so with a child who is pushing all your buttons. So making sure he tells us to remember how good your child normally is; maybe by looking at past photos of good moments will help you weather this difficult period.
Of course, every virus needs to take its time and here to the same will happen. We can’t make it go quicker. We can only make it easier for the child by being their stronghold. As Kim John Payne says in page 49:”Nobody gets to skip the soul fevers and growing pains of life. In order to learn who they are, and what feels right to them a child must grapple with these emotional upsets. It’s all part of self-regulation.”
Lastly, a slow strong return, where we can see our child re-emerging, strong and better than before! This happened last year with my oldest. Around 9 years he went through a lot of growth and his soul fever was long and extremely difficult. It hit our family like a storm which seemed never ending. But end it did and the new boy was unrecognizable. You could literally feel him stronger and more mature.
I think this is my favourite chapter. It is an insight on development rarely looked upon from this perspective. Something which happens regularly to children and is part and parcel of life itself. It give us tools here to remember and understand and navigate such difficult periods with our children. Holding them in a way not to save them but to simply acknowledge were they are and that we are there as needed.
What are your thoughts? How does this make you feel? Did you ever experience soul fever in your children?