Creating a Lasting Connection with Your Child
BY ANITA MARTIN
The love between parents and their children is unique and irreplaceable. Parenting is one of the most difficult tasks we face. After all, there is so much to balance, teach, and live that it’s easy to forget that we are really developing future adults. Our children are precious and most of us would give our lives to protect them from painful circumstances.
Childhood is a time of constant change sparked by developmental transitions in addition to shifting family dynamics. Some children appear to have the “perfect” family while others may have suffered unimaginable wrongs. Our children navigate an increasingly complex world and they need to feel supported and understood at home.
I am a mother of a twenty-something young man. Although he is grown now and supporting himself, my memory easily slips to a time when life was as simple as sharing popsicles on the front porch. Like many of your children, my son struggled in school. Eventually his difficulty waned, but it was the relationship we built during his struggles that has sustained our connection. For my son, school triggered anxiety, stomach aches, and increasing non-compliance. The carpool line became his escape; the one moment that swept him away to his childhood. But with ever increasing demands between homework, sports, and other school related activities, it seemed there was a lack of time to be a 10-year-old boy. So, in order for my son and me to cope with too-high expectations, stress, and sometimes being unfairly misunderstood, we invented our own respite.
Once we were home and settled, I would ask if it was popsicle time. Then, we would find our way to the front porch with treats in hand. I listened as he would recount every unfair interaction he had endured and how his homework assignments were too difficult or just plain “stupid.” We talked about the necessity of school and responsibility. We talked about why his stomach hurt and what we could do about it. We shared the growing pains of young friendships based on little more than shared playground activities. I was doing what I hope any mother would do.
It wasn’t until years later that I realized those hours of talking poured a foundation of understanding in our relationship. As my son grew older, popsicles on the porch transitioned into weekly coffee dates as the topics of conversation changed. And now that he is in his twenties, the topics have changed once again, but our connection is strong.
If you find parenting challenging or if you have difficulty connecting with your child, my intention in this article is to encourage you to develop an open relationship with your child and/or children. An open relationship does not mean you share adult issues with your child, but rather that you offer your child the space to be imperfect, scared, and frustrated. Once you do this, you not only create a safe place for your child to feel, struggle, and grow, but also begin to develop a relationship that will last both of your lifetimes. The time has come to have a popsicle on the porch!