Unravelling the Knots of Confusion. The Emotion We Forget To Talk About.

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For the last 3 years I look forward to joining a wonderful group every month based on the Cafe Adler principles.  Alfred Adler was an Austrian medical doctor, psychotherapist, and founder of the School of Individual Psychology. His emphasis on the importance of feelings of belonging, family constellation and birth order set him apart from Freud and others in their common circle and an Adler Café, or “Adler Kaffeehaus” in German, refers to a type of café that was popular in Vienna, Austria during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Adler Cafés were known for attracting intellectuals, writers, artists, and thinkers of the era. These cafes served as meeting places for creative minds, providing an environment for discussion, debate, and the exchange of ideas. The cafés had a Bohemian atmosphere, with a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere. People were encouraged to spend long hours sipping coffee, enjoying pastries, and engaging in good conversation!

Coffee, especially Viennese coffee, was a staple of Adler Cafés, and they offered a variety of traditional pastries like Sachertorte, Apfelstrudel, and Linzer torte.

This inclusive and diverse café culture played a crucial role in shaping the ideas and art of the time.

We meet online ( without the wonderful aroma of Viennese coffee and Apple Strudel!! )  but embracing the wonderful attitude of coming together to learn, explore, debate and share ideas.

I love it as it’s a place to make sense of the world, learn new Adlerian psychological insights from counsellors, therapists and friends that I can add to my CPD toolkit as well as explore who I am and how I tick.

Today we looked at ‘Confusion‘ – what it is, how we handle it, and how it affects us both individually & collectively.

We all handle it differently – and there’s no right or wrong way to handle confusion!

But I thought about how we help children process confusion and the messages we give them around it.

Unravelling the Knots of Confusion.

I started the Sue Atkins Book Club during the pandemic to offer parents ideas and books to help around uncertainty and confusion as it was such a strange time to be alive.

Maybe it’s topical and a coincidence that the Covid Inquiry is centre stage once again in the News.

As certainly that was a time of HUGE confusion collectively and personally for families and society as a whole.

It’s an emotion I don’t think I’ve thought about very much before consciously, so today’s Cafe Adler got me thinking and reflecting on how we as parents and teachers talk about confusion.

Parents often contact me when they are feeling confused about something and helping children handle confusion is an important aspect of parenting too I think.

Children, like ourselves, often experience confusion when they encounter new experiences, challenging situations, or complex emotions.

I have some ideas that I hope you’ll find helpful.

Active Listening:

When your child is confused, start by actively listening to their concerns and questions. Show empathy and understanding by asking open-ended questions like, “Can you tell me more about what’s confusing you?” This helps them feel heard and validated.

Provide a Safe and Supportive Environment:

Create an environment where your child feels safe to express their confusion without fear of judgment. Assure them that it’s okay to be confused and that you are there to help them understand.

Empathise and Validate:

Acknowledge your child’s feelings of confusion and validate their emotions. Let them know that it’s normal to feel this way and that confusion is a part of learning and growing.

Break It Down:

If a situation or problem is causing confusion, help your child break it down into smaller, more manageable parts. This can make it less overwhelming and easier to comprehend.

Use Visual Aids:

For younger children or those who are more visually oriented, use visual aids such as drawings, diagrams, or props to illustrate concepts and clarify confusion.

Provide Age-Appropriate Information:

Ensure that you provide information that is suitable for your child’s age and cognitive development. Overloading them with complex information can lead to more confusion.

Encourage Questions:

Let your child know that it’s okay to ask questions. Encourage their curiosity and create an environment where they feel comfortable seeking answers.

Teach Problem-Solving Skills:

Guide your child through the process of problem-solving. Teach them how to identify the issue, consider possible solutions, and make decisions. This empowers them to handle confusion independently.

Model Coping Strategies:

Children often learn by observing their parents. Model healthy ways to cope with confusion by demonstrating patience, resilience, and a willingness to seek answers and learn from mistakes.

Use Stories and Metaphors:

Sometimes, using stories or metaphors can help children better understand complex concepts. Relate confusing situations to something familiar to make it more relatable.

Encourage Critical Thinking:

Help your child develop critical thinking skills by asking them open-ended questions that promote reasoning and logical thinking. This can be a valuable tool for navigating confusion.

Praise Effort, Not Just Results:

Encourage your child’s efforts to understand and learn, even if they don’t immediately find the answers. Praise their determination and perseverance, which can boost their confidence.

Offer Reassurance:

Remind your child that it’s okay not to have all the answers right away. Reassure them that learning and understanding take time, and it’s a natural part of life.

Give Them TIME

We tend to rush in to rescue our children when sometimes they just need time to sit with confusion for awhile and let things percolate. The answers will come or we can go along side them while they do.

Seek Professional Help If Needed:

If confusion really seems to persists or is related to emotional or developmental issues, don’t hesitate to seek professional help from a child psychologist or counsellor who specialises in working with children, particularly teens.

Parenting is an ongoing journey, and helping children handle confusion is an integral part of nurturing their emotional and intellectual growth. By exploring and trying some of these psychological strategies, you can support your child in developing the skills and resilience needed to navigate the complexities of life – which is full of confusion, uncertainty and challenges at times no matter how old we are.

Let’s allow our children to have the courage to be confused sometimes and offer them compassion and care while they learn to navigate it.




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