Follow the Leader

Apr 2, 2023

Some topics are hard to deal with – which is why a mom approached me.  Their family pet of many years was nearing the end of his life and she wanted advice on how to tell their young child.  After providing general thoughts, my main suggestion was the same as when I talk to parents about discussing a divorce, accident, sickness or other unfortunate event with kids. 

“Most importantly,” I said, “remember the game ‘Follow the Leader.’”  Children will follow your lead, and if you are handling a loss well, you send the message that all will be well.”  By handling things well, I mean modeling appropriate sadness and grief, but also conveying strength, gratitude and positive assurance.

When babies are born, they look toward adults to determine “Is this a safe place?”  The way we communicate the answer is not so much through our words as it is our tone of voice, facial expressions and body language.  This same principle applies to the majority of our interactions with others.  Actions really do speak louder than words.

I wonder what message my tone of voice, facial expressions and general body language conveys – especially when I’m having a bad day.  I don’t really have an answer, but I do think we could all use some self-reflection in this area.  Our non-verbal behaviors have a strong impact on the individuals around us. So, let’s make a conscious attempt to convey healthy emotional states this week.  And if we are lucky, perhaps others will follow our lead.  

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