Last week I had the privilege of accompanying one of my children to Bangkok for a football (soccer) tournament.
In a busy expat family of four kids it isn’t always easy to get a lot of dedicated one on one time with mom. So it was special that I was able to organize my other three children with friends (since my husband was traveling) and be able to accompany this child.
As we were getting ready to board our flight home one of the parents said to me, it was a good trip, but I’m not really sure it made a difference to my child that I came.
I understood why the parent might have thought this, none of the parents had a lot of interactions with the children but I know how much presence matters. Even when kids aren’t highly engaged with parents, they can feel connection and it makes them feel loved and seen.
The thing children crave most is real connection with their parent. Connection with kids happens in a variety of ways, it changes and evolves over time, but feeling connected to a parent is the ultimate gift.
As babies connection is changing diaper, playing and feeding children. As children grow connection become sharing meal time, physical connection such as hugs (12 per day is recommended…family therapist Virginia Satir famously said, “We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.”) playing, listening, talking and sometimes it’s just showing up and cheering for your child, like the parents on the trip.
Childhood has challenging sides particularly for expat kids. Showing up and giving your child the space to share when they have had a bad day at school or when they just feel alone and like no one understands.
What your child craves most is real connection. They want to feel like they are accepted and belong. This can be more challenging for an expat child like yours. Moving, changing schools, navigating friendships and friendship groups, is complex. These things are challenging for adults who have fully developed brains and more experience to navigate. Feeling connected helps children navigate tricky situations more easily. Connection for a child is feeling loved and cared for, and that there are people in their life who they can turn to when they need support.
As parents it isn’t always possible for us to be available which is why fostering meaningful relationships that your child can rely on, is important. There are time when it can be difficult to provide that sense of connection, especially when you are living far away from family and friends. But it is so important for you to support the creation and development of these connections for your child. Whether it’s through regular video calls with loved ones back home or friends in past locations, joining local clubs and by supporting your child in developing your their own friendships.
In the midst of busy complex lives, I know it isn’t always easy to find the time, but don’t underestimate the power of real connection. There is nothing your child needs more in their life, and it will be the thing they can carry with them forever.
The trip I took had a lot of special aspects but the thing I valued most was the opportunity for my child to feel my presence because this fostered the connection we both want and need.
If you find what I share helpful I would be grateful if you would share this with one expat friend who might also find value in the information I share. You can share this link with them.
Enjoy the rest of the week!
Pssst….you got this, I know some days are hard but I see you, you are amazing and your child is so lucky….keep up the good work!