Taken from my “Real Moms of West Michigan” segment on Star 105.7 every Tuesday at 7:05 AM…
We have never had more information about parenting available to us, but often we’re still baffled about how to deal with situations with our kids. I think that is because the more important part of parenting is not WHAT we do but WHO we are to our kids.
All the parenting skills in the world can not compensate for a lack of connecting with them as a parent, as an authority and as the one who is most reliable to care for them. Listening and letting them know that you care.
A lot of parents today are shrinking back because we don’t feel qualified to help or understand our kids and what is happening is that they are reaching out to each other, looking to peers to fill that void of connection. They’re looking to each other for social cues and direction but their peers are not equipped to guide them which can leave our kids on very unstable ground emotionally.
And yes, social media plays a huge role in this today. Instead of kids looking to parents as their compass and their validation, they are looking at “friends” and “likes” on their pictures/status’s.
The good news is that it’s not too late. Children want connection with us, they want to look up to us, no matter what they say or how they act, they have an internal instinct to need their parent. So what do they need from us? They need us to lead with love and authority. Give them guidance. Be their parent.
I am doing a series on my Real Moms segment on Star 105.7 with Tommy and Brook, it’s about the Six Ways to Connect with Our Kids. We will go from the most shallow and most basic type of connection to the deepest level of attachment with someone because understanding attachment/connection is the single most important factor in knowing how to help our kids become confident, secure and emotionally healthy adults.
Much of this information was learned through reading “Hold On To Your Kids” by Gordon Neufeld.
1. The first one is SENSES.
Children have an instinctive need to sense who they are connecting with: sight-smell-sound-touch. Physical proximity is the most basic way we connect. Even though this is considered the most basic level of connection, it is extremely important in all relationships; and that hunger for closeness never goes away.
To apply that to parenting: spend time together, make eye contact, and make sure you still have physical contact with them. Hugs, high fives, wrestling when their little, touching their arm or shoulder or patting their back as they get older.
They need this from us all through life.
If you’re feeling distance from your child, you might want to pay attention to who they seem to need to be around. Are there peers whom they are driven to be with and at the same time putting up walls with you? Are they making some poor choices as they follow their friends?
This is not the time to just draw back and say– “well they’re growing up and this is normal that they want less to do with me.” Especially if you see their character changing for the worse.
Yes, they will grow up and leave the nest, BUT parents still need to stay engaged until they do leave the nest and remain connected because often they are searching for outside connection because they’re not feeling it with us.
Even and especially through the teens years they need to have connection with us…they need to know we are there for them and believe in them.
So, stay connected to your kids in the most basic of ways which is through their senses.
2. The second one is SAMENESS.
We start to see the need for sameness when our kids are toddlers as they mimic those who are closest to them. They are essentially trying to discover who they are so they start to assume our identity. They want to be just like mom or just like dad, so they copy us. Our words our actions our responses; they are paying close attention to everything we say and do.
This is an important part of connection and it continues on in life. It is a very strong drive for children to be the “same” as others. This breaks down on so many levels; it can be about them wanting the same brand of shoes that everyone is wearing or in extreme cases gang affiliation.
Parents, we really need to pay attention to who our kids are emulating and trying to be the same as. As they grow we see a pulling away and they want to be the same as others. Some of this is normal progression of a child becoming who they are…but be careful not to dismiss rebellion for individuality.
A child who is truly becoming their own person will be an individual in all circumstances and not just individual from their parents.
If you are feeling your child being sucked away from you, it’s time to step up and work on fixing that connection with your child because that is not normal or healthy. It is almost like we’ve just taken for granted that our kids will become teens and rebel, but that’s a mistake because true individuality does not mean rebellion.
So parents, let’s pay attention to our kids need for sameness, give them space to be individuals but also nurture their uniqueness and encourage their individuality by validating who they are. They will be drawn to those who accept them.
We’re seeing a generation of kids that are terrified of being different. They feel that “different” is wrong, it’s our job to give them a secure foundation to let their unique personality and individuality blossom. They need to know that they have a place to belong and be loved- no matter what.
3. The third is BELONGING and LOYALTY
Again we see this unfolding in toddlerhood as they lay claim to whatever they feel is theirs. “Mine!” This is all part of connecting, they even do it with us; MY daddy, MY mommy, they jealously seek to possess us. We see this as they get older with BFF’s, and the tight knit relationships they form in junior and senior high school. Along with that comes loyalty; sharing and protecting each other’s secrets, taking their friend’s side. This is a crucial part of attaching and connecting, and the thing we need to watch out for is if our kids are finding their sense of belonging and becoming deeply loyal to friends or peer groups and those relationships are becoming more important than the sense of belonging and loyalty that they feel in their family.
A child will be stronger emotionally and socially if their deepest ties and loyalty are to their family first.
Let them know how important they are to your family, that home is their first place of belonging and show them your loyalty to the person they are becoming by believing in them.
4. The fourth is SIGNIFICANCE
This is that sense of knowing that we matter, that we are held dear to someone’s heart.
It’s all about our deep need for approval.
Our kids will gravitate to those that will accept and approve of them.
A child can tell by our countenance if we approve of them, if we are glad they walked into a room. Are we happy to see them? They will know it. They desperately want to know that they matter, that they are seen and valuable. They need to know that they are significant. Just like we all still do. A few things to help our kids feel significant: *Don’t minimize their feelings. Home needs to be the safe place for them to allow their feelings to be heard and understood. *Encourage them to pursue their dreams. What do they love to do? Help them get better at it. For those of you that said- they only like video games…get them out of the house, expose them to more things and places, opportunities. *Listen to them, give them eye contact when they’re talking. Put down the phone when they’re trying to tell us something. Our kids want to know that they are significant and the healthiest place for them to find their significance is the home. When they have the solid foundation of who they are at home, they can become strong, determined young adults.
5. The fifth is FEELINGS
Kids and adults find closeness through feelings, warm feelings, loving feelings, affectionate feelings. We want to build solid connections with our kids and emotion is strongly tied to connection. When a child connects emotionally to their parent, it forms an intimate attachment that is not easily broken. Even when there is distance between them AND even when there are challenges and peer relationships that might be interfering with our parenting. We need to have emotional attachment with our kids. This is when connection goes from the shallow end of just being in proximity to each other TO connecting through a loving relationship.
This includes being vulnerable with one another and it is a riskier form of connection.
If you hear a child say to a parent, “yeah, whatever” or “I don’t care” – that’s defensive sign of a lack of attachment – it means the child is afraid of getting hurt by the parent so he becomes defensive against vulnerability – he protects himself from feeling vulnerable by putting up a wall. As parents, we want to create a safe emotional environment for our kids to FEEL our love and affection. Sometimes we get off track when parenting trials come along and we think we need more information. We feel we are not good enough parents because we don’t know enough about parenting, but that is not true. Parenting is not about being skilled, it is about the relationship we have with our children. Parenthood is not a skill to be acquired. Attachment is not a behavior to be learned but a connection to be sought. Parents- you are fully equipped to raise your kids- even if you’ve never read a book about parenting. Trust your gut, follow the instinct that IS in all of us and nurture your relationship with your child as it works best in your family.
6. The sixth is BEING KNOWN
To be close to someone is to be known by them. This is closely related to last week- feelings. The feeling of being loved is so important…especially coupled with being known. When a child is vulnerable to their parents and feels loved even in their failures, they are known deeply and the attachment/connection is powerful and they don’t fear rejection. They put down their guard and let you in. This child will not want to keep secrets from their parents, they will trust that they will be accepted, loved and invited to be themselves.
Being known is the deepest level of attachment and connection.
This kind of relationship does not happen by chance and you can not assume that it will happen just because you are the parent and they are your child. This level of connection is nurtured and developed over time and trial and situations that show our children we are there for them and love them without conditions. I’m not saying that it doesn’t involve discipline, but the focus of this relationship is not about just dealing with wrong behavior and correcting them. The focus is training and teaching our kids how to make the best choices. Ultimately, a deep attachment with parents will help your kids become emotionally secure and independent. REMEMBER Parenting is above all a relationship, not a skill to be acquired. Attachment is not a behavior to be learned but a connection to be sought.
Listen to segments here: Real Moms on Star 105.7