Sometimes when we’ve experienced childhood trauma, we struggle with relationships. For example, we might find it hard to function in romantic relationships parenting. The struggle is evident even in people who have planned for and awaited the birth of their babies.
Lack of connection can be the trigger for enormous guilt and shame. We are taught to be ‘perfect’ at parenting, and this struggle is especially hard for women. It seems we should automatically know how to attach and stay united.
However, it is also true that the needs of our children might trigger our attachment wounds. When this is happening secure connection could be impeded.
Below I outline some steps that you could take to begin to repair that relationship.
We connect with our children when we can be playful, practice presence, protect them and help them feel safe. Repair is further advanced when we communicate in a language that they can understand. Give them opportunities to spend time with you and be ok with them initiating alone time.
The above initiatives will help to repair any relationship and foster long-term secure connection.
1. Increase availability
Practice presence being with them physically and mentally; you can be in the same room with them without talking or doing an activity together. Your presence can be calming and reassuring even when you’re not speaking.
Try to make this a no screen time. Resist the urge to check your messages or emails or catch up on social media.
2. Listen deeper
Give them a feeling of being heard.
Think about what it feels like for you when you know someone understands you on that deep level. Think about the last time someone gets you, and you did not have to explain or defend self. Remember the sense of relief that you felt.
Giving children a felt sense that you understand them will help in repairing any broken places in the relationship. Ask questions to clarify any misunderstanding.
Listen for the hurt tone, look for specific facial expression and respond to the hurt that is reflected. Commenting on tone, facial expression and the injury gives a feeling of acceptance even when exhibiting emotions that might be difficult to handle. E.g. ‘You sound angry when you said….., I wonder if we could talk about it.’
Additionally, summarising your understanding of what was said. For example, here’s what I got from what you said.’
Check in with them to make sure you understand what they are trying to communicate.
Sometimes this might be challenging if you are unhappy or disagree with a course they have chosen or feel their actions are wrong, or not in line with the values you try to teach.
Check what you understood
‘I don’t understand, but maybe you could tell me more.’
Practising acceptance also includes self-acceptance. Sometimes as parents we can be hard on ourselves especially at those times when we feel like we made a mistake or we broke a promise we made to ourselves or the child.
Practising acceptance will help you look at the bigger picture, and you have another opportunity to try again. Forgive yourself and try again.
Forgiveness teaches self-compassion and empathy which are essential elements for connection.
It is easy to be hard on self when we feel we’ve ‘messed’ up as parents. You can repair this by shifting to a more supportive stance.
• Offer self-empathy
• Share with your spouse how you feel about what happened
• Accept support and encouragement from others
4. Give and receive forgiveness
Accepting an apology is essential in repairing broken places in any relationship. The disconnection between parent and child is just as crucial, and forgiveness can help to heal many wounds. When something happens notice how you feel about letting go of the hurt.
Notice your usual stance when hurt. Do you withdraw into silence, shout or resort to punishment.
Asking for forgiveness is also essential in repairing disconnection, e.g. ‘ I am sorry for shouting’ be sure to take responsibility for your loss of control.
Model the behaviour you would like the children to exhibit. E.g. ‘ I lost control; there’s no excuse for it please forgive me?’
5. Play together
Try to do something that they like
How comfortable are you with playing? It’s a useful tool for building relationships with our children. Making room for playing could increase togetherness and build trust.
What is one activity that you can do that doesn’t include screen time?
Outdoor activity such as hiking, biking, sports