More About Holding The Space

We have been having a conversation about this over at Donna Simmons’ forum, and it has raised many important questions about this concept.  Several great threads have popped up about holding the space, please do come join us!

One of the most interesting concerns to me, though, was a question that came up regarding if holding the space was somehow not authentic, and how do children learn about emotion and managing emotion if not from us? I started thinking that the corollary to this is sort of:   If we do all this inner work, then we will be calm all the time, right?

I love this!  To me, “holding the space”  does not mean we have The Valium House and we are deadened to the world.  You are holding the space for your child, the most intimate thing in your life outside of your partner, because you are the adult and you want to help your child. You may very well be angry, but you are stopping to try to hold your reactions in check so you don’t do something you will regret.  You are also doing this so you don’t pass on your baggage and check it into your child’s luggage! So maybe you go outside for a moment and come back if that is safe. Maybe you breathe. Essentially you are trying to take that moment to try not to be sucked into laying down on the floor and having a temper tantrum  yourself next to your two year old.  It is not at all about being a Valium Parent,  it is about being authentic and genuine but also dependable. The child will learn they can push for a boundary against you and you will not crumple to the floor and then the child develops themselves even further.

Holding the space also means you can rise above your own feelings in a way to be constructive. You can show the child how to fix it, how to make things better. You can show your child what to DO with those angry feelings. That is the important thing. When an emotion threatens to topple you into the abyss, how do you regain yourself and how do you make it better? That is the part the child needs to see, and because they live in their bodies, they need to know through movement and action, the doing, not in this reasoning talk that many parenting  books want to use. That comes at later ages!

Children under 7 DO have emotions! Of course!   I like how Kim John Payne describes it in his book “Simplicity Parenting“, how small children have just this pool of undifferentiated emotion and if you do venture to ask them how they feel they generally will say “bad”. They really don’t have that same consciousness to it that we do, but it is okay to describe what you see in the moment.  Sometimes when a child is upset or angry, we want so badly to fix it and sometimes the child just needs to feel it.  A touch, a look, can all be supportive.  Words cannot dam the flood!  Warmth on the level of the soul!  That is healing!

Again though, showing what one can do with these strong emotions  to transform it, to make things better is important.   We often want this sense of utopia for our children – peaceful, no conflict.  I think the best thing though is to show how to transform conflict  into something constructive, without a big speech about it.  Or even just seeing how we cry and move on.  How do you let go of things?  Can you show that?

Life with little ones is in the doing, and with the doing comes the power of transformation and potential for healing.

(Part of this post I originally wrote for a thread on the Waldorf At Home Forum, but it has been somewhat transformed like strong authentic emotions  :))




5 thoughts on “More About Holding The Space

  1. Hey Carrie,

    Thanks so much for your further words about ‘holding the space’. It is something I am very interested in reading about and bringing to my parenting. I will definitely be searching your blog for further info to read about this.

    I just wanted to clarify that I was by no means implying that parents that ‘hold the space’ are devoid of emotion and do not show a ‘real’ emotional range to their children. I see that my way of writing my original post may have come across like that, but it was not at all what I was meaning. For me it was just interesting to have only just read the post at the WAH forum about holding the space and then straight after to have read the article I referred to. In my mind I just wondered between the two and how to balance/integrate the two, as well as being mindful of the child’s dreamy consciousness. I am on a very big learning curb with all the Waldorf indications, so, so much of it is so new to me and I love it all but also like to make sure I understand it all clearly.

    I LOVE the idea of holding the space and it is only something I am just now becoming more aware of, I have heard it mentioned in passing, but it hasn’t really fallen onto my ‘radar’ as such until the recent post bringing up the subject at WAH forum. (Probably also because it is something that atm would bring some great harmony and benefits to our home and my parenting!) 🙂 Therefore having just become more aware of it, it is a point of mindfulness for me atm, which is probably why when I read the AP article I had the whole ‘holding the space’ concept in my mind as I was reading it, but I wondered if and how one could incorporate BOTH ideas into their parenting, I wondered how they ‘meshed’ together. I also had some questions regarding the AP approach in regards to if it would be too ‘awakening’ for the child. I find it can sometimes be hard to read other material such as AP when I now have a deeper understanding of the sensitivity of the child based on the Steiner/Waldorf indications. (I of course am not implying that AP doesn’t consider the sensitivity of the child, but I am referring to the spiritual sensitivity I now more deeply understand from the Waldorf indications). I already see the benefits in our home of mindfully working to ‘hold the space’, after only really starting to think about it consciously over the past week.

    Just thought I’d better clarify what I meant. As well as where and why my questions arose, so it was clear that I was not at all implying anything negative about either practice.

  2. Everything you have written here and on the forum regarding this topic has been so helpful for me in the last few days! I love how clearly you write – it makes it very easy to put these things into action:) Thankyou 🙂

  3. Carrie, This is a very timely post. Today on our morning walk my son laid down on the sidewalk and refused to move. He wanted me to carry him home, only he’s too heavy for me to carry. With all my heart I just wanted a nice walk, but he totally refused and I was completely exasperated. I have a mantra for these kinds of situations that I repeat over and over again to remind me of my parenting values before I act: “do not crush him with your anger, guide him out of this.” This post today will amend that mantra a bit and I think help my actions be even more supportive and more in line with how I am striving to parent, to be a better parent. It will be something like: “don’t crush him with your anger, what he really needs right now is your warmth.” Thank you for these reminders today on holding space.

  4. First reading of this post and I thought it was really useful. Second reading and I thought, wow, this is a really powerful post. You have offered us readers a very important and challenging contemplation. These questions particularly struck me: “When an emotion threatens to topple you into an abyss, how do you regain yourself and make it better?” “How do you let go of things?” Why is this so hard? I’ll be working on this. Thank you.

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