I saw a quote recently that said parenting is 80% connection and 20% guidance. That really resonated with me because I believe that everything meaningful in life is based in connection.
Being connected, especially to my kids has always been something I have put importance on, with time and effort. A few years ago an off handed comment by a friend helped me recognize some distance between me and one of my kids and it concerned me. The comment made me look a bit deeper and I saw myself being less patient and more easily frustrated with this child.
I wasn’t sure what was going on, but I could definitely feel a difference. At the time none of my kids were tween or teens (this can be a time of developmental shift in connection with parents) so it made me look at things a bit closer.
The distance I felt in this relationship concerned me because I know that real connection makes us feel stronger and less alone. Closeness allows us to celebrate our success and victories but more importantly it allows us to share our challenges and concerns.
Growing up is not an easy process. Kids deal with many of the same struggles and emotions adults do (navigating challenging relationships, stress, disappointment, rejection, humiliation, fear, anxiety, sadness, insecurity) yet they are doing it with less tools, resources or understanding.
Connection to the trusted adults in their lives are the tools and resources they rely on to be able to learn how to to navigate these challenging feelings, emotions and circumstances. I knew my child still needed me which is why the distance was so concerning to me.
Staying connected to our kids as they grow can be a delicate dance. A dance of knowing when and where to apply what pressure and how much. This dance is complicated by various factors and can be especially tricky in the tween and teen years.
When our kids are babies connection is more easily formed because our child is highly reliant on us to have all their needs met. As they grow, they become more independent, their needs change, so sometimes keeping connection established can become more challenging.
As our kids get older they push us away (their brains are actually wired to naturally do this) which intellectually we know is normal, yet we are also aware that they still have many skill and tools that have yet to be developed. Sometimes our fear can leads us to put too much pressure on them which can push them away more. Yet if we ease up too much the lack of structure and boundaries can be disorienting, since kids find safety in structure.
As parents we have a difficult job of getting our kids ready for a challenging world. Ensuring our kids are prepared and have the necessary tools to be able to meet the challenges of the world head on is not an easy task.
In the middle of things I thought I was helping my child, but an outside observer made me see things differently. The persons comment lead me to recognize the crack and challenged me to look at things differently. Reestablishing that connection was critical because I knew that the crack could lead to something more significant.
As I began to look at the challenges, I discovered the crack I was seeing and feeling was something that had been building over years. Often as parents since we are in the middle, we don’t always see the fractures to connection that our parenting has caused. It can be years before we see the impact because when we are in the middle it is hard to see the forest through the trees.
The outsider helped open my eyes in seeing that something was off but my willingness to acknowledge it and then my reaching out for help and support, took courage.
This is just like the parents I work with that have allowed me into their hearts and lived by reaching out for help. Being open to new ideas and shifting behaviors inside themselves is brave.
With respect and gratitude.
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