Are You Treating A Child’s Pain, or Their Bandage?

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When a child is hurt and has a Band-Aid, do you apply your healing intention towards the Band-Aid or the cut below?

Sounds like an obvious question, right? Certainly the Band-Aid is not in any pain; it is just a protective device we use to ensure that nothing more sinister contacts the open wound.

As all well-intentioned parents, school nurses, and yes, educators, know, when a bandage is applied, it is the cut below that is in pain, and we do everything within our power to reduce that pain so healing can prevail.

Now, why don’t we use that same understanding of pain when it is emotional or psychological?

Here is what I mean:

We have never seen a time where our children and youth (and quite frankly, ourselves) are hurting more inside. The pain runs deep, and is expressed through our thoughts, words, and actions. All of this plays a large part in influencing our behavior. 

Our pain-based behavior looks like road rage, impatience on the grocery line, yelling at the waitress because your food arrived cold, snapping at your spouse or kids because you were left to clean up the kitchen after dinner.  You are overworked, overtired, and overwhelmed.

For our kids, it shows up as yelling, hitting, difficulty sharing, crying for not getting their way, shutting down and appearing to ignore us, acting fidgety and highly distracted, irritable, and not following our directions…the list goes on.

Using the metaphor of the Band-Aid, all of these behaviors ARE actually the Band-Aid. They are a protective mechanism which our nervous system has learned to apply in an attempt to keep us safe, especially when it is overwhelmed, overworked, overtired, and chronically stressed. The cut (or the pain) which the Band-Aid conceals is loneliness, hopelessness, depression, anger, anxiety, frustration, confusion, shame, insecurity, grief, anxiety…this list goes on as well.

Just like in this metaphor, we need to see the Band-Aid (behavior) as the protective mechanism and ask ourselves, What is the pain that the behavior is shielding? We need to address the pain in order to facilitate the healing.

Think of it like this: If it were a nasty cut under that bandage, would you apply ointment to the top of the bandage, or to the cut?

Where are you applying your healing help? Ointment on the Band-Aid will just make things more slippery, slimy, and dangerous. Soothe the pain, and now you are on the way to actually helping to shift the behavior.

When behaviors flare up, just by remembering this metaphor, you can begin to change your focus and bring a presence of repair rather than reprimand. 

Believe it or not, your personal response to the behaviors of others will either make them put up more “Band-Aids”, protective gear such as more intense behaviors, or help them to soften and feel safe enough to let you see the true nature of their pain and accept some help on the road to healing.