Connecting with Your Kids: Why They Need It & Why You Need It, Too.

Here I am again – It’s a Sunday morning (my kids favorite time of day to throw their wildest tantrums). So I’m trying to breathe deep and remember why I don’t want to scream and yell when they are well, screaming and yelling. All I want to do is have my coffee and eat some oatmeal. Is that really too much to ask? According to a toddler, yes it is. Much, much to much to ask.

I’m not in my best positive parenting space this morning (I chose to stay up to the ridiculous hour of 11 o’clock watching a movie last night – did I forget I’m a pregnant mom of 2 little kids?) and these kids have their insta-alarm built into their tiny bodies that wake them up promptly at 5:58 a.m. every morning. So, again, tired and not in my most patient, calm, happy mommy mode.

Thankfully, it’s the weekend and I have the option of calling in reinforcements… so my husband came to the rescue. Ahhh. (For a moment. At least long enough to be writing this now). Since I have this 5 minutes of pure blissful peace and solitude I am listening to the contained commotion upstairs of my husband playing with the kids. And, I start noticing…

Their screams and fighting almost instantly turn to calm and excitement. It’s as if that’s all they were asking for all along  (in their very skillful ways). So I sit here, becoming very aware, of this clashing of needs that occurs on a daily basis in my home and I’m pretty certain in most every parent/child home.

Your needs vs. Your child’s needs.

When these two opposing forces rise up, it comes down to who’s stronger, more powerful, louder, mightier, more willful in that moment.

And the winner is…..

But, does it really have to be this way? And does anyone really win in these situations? I know I sure don’t feel like a winner even when I get my way. But, the struggle is real.

As I return my attention to the story occurring upstairs, I am wildly aware that what our children crave most is us. Our attention, our engagement, our comfort, our interaction.  They want, they need to feel connected. And if they don’t get this in a positive way, well the next best option is….what?….you guessed it, negative attention. In the world of a child, bad attention is better than no attention at all. 

So, where does this leave us tired, disgruntled, desperate for a moment alone parents?

In all my efforts to try and convince my kids that they should consider my needs as well – a moment to go to the bathroom alone, anyone?- I realize this is just too much to ask of their little brains. Sure, this may be a bit more reasonable to ask of a teen, but even then, we know that teens, more than anyone, only have one person on their minds – themselves. And one might react to this by thinking, “well that’s selfish. I need to teach them to be aware of other people besides themselves.” And while this is true in most cases, fortunately or unfortunately (depending on who you ask) this rule may not well apply to parents.

Your kids need you.

Not some of the time, but all of the time. This doesn’t mean you need to be in their presence every moment of the day, but they need to know they have access to you when they need you. This creates the safety and security they truly need. And the paradox is:

When they feel this sense of safety with you, they in turn feel more secure to step away, little by little. That is the nature of healthy attachment.

So, does this mean that you have to put your own needs aside day after day? To put your coffee down after you’ve only had one sip? To play dress up with them for the 20th time that day?  To answer to every “mommy, daddy, mommy, daddy, mommy!!!!”???

In a word…..Yes.

There are certainly ways to encourage your children to be more independent, but that comes second.

First, connect with your child. Really connect. Hear them. See them. And the most important element here – This all has to be felt by them.

And, now that we’re at the end of this post it makes sense that we address how and when to come back to you.

You come back to you by never leaving. You stay grounded. You stay aware of your needs, desires, and wants. You stay connected to the awareness that you will have your chance – it may come later rather than sooner, but it will come. You breathe deep, remember where you are – in this moment (not in the moments before or after) and open up to what this moment calls for and you accept it. You engage mindfully. 

And last of all, you count the hours until nap time. You will make it.

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