There are times when we are not “present” with our kids. Maybe we are trying to solve a difficult problem, maybe we are feeling depressed or anxious or we’re tuned-in to a cell phone or maybe we’re just overly busy. I appreciate this study (see below) that was posted on YouTube for it’s illustration of how children, even very young children, communicate with us and how they respond to our absence. (It’s hard to watch this little child get so frustrated!)
It’s not surprising that these moments of stress can escalate when the child starts shrieking, trying to connect with the parent, and the distracted parent may feel that the child is being annoying or impatient or punishing to them on some level. Children are simply trying to get their needs met.
The feeling of trying to communicate with a checked-out parent (or spouse or friend) is crazy-making and becomes the antithesis of validation. Feeling validated means feeling seen, heard and understood. Don’t we love to be heard and understood?!
Thankfully, we are designed to be resilient and we can reconnect with each other, as Dr. Tronick points out. But we need to beware of patterns of disconnectedness.
I encourage you to do what it takes to make multiple, daily, meaningful connections with your spouse and children. A child who is connected has a far greater prospect of building enduring relationships throughout their lives. And the couple who learn to connect with each other in meaningful ways, over time, build a very fulfilling relationship! Note the words; learn and build! We have to remember that healthy marriage and parenting relationships require time and effort and hard work, they don’t just happen!
Are there any new boundaries that you could set that would help you to be more present with your family this year? It’s worth asking the question and thinking it through. We just keep learning and adjusting and trying. And all of our efforts do add up!
Keep on going! Don’t give up! You’re doing great!