Being present with your kids is fundamental to connecting with …
Being present with your kids is fundamental to connecting with …
I was 12 years old when my 16-year-old cousin got me alone in a room and started feeling me up. I remember being so shaken and scared. I didn’t know what to do.
When I came home, I told my mother. I shall never forget what she said to me: “Stop making up stories. Your cousin is a good boy. You know that. Why would you want to say bad things about him? What’s wrong with you?”
I froze. Could I have imagined the whole thing? Could it not have happened? Could it have been my fault? I ran up to my room and never mentioned the incident again.
Extreme school violence continues to be a major problem in the United States. As such, stories about school violence are frequent on news programs. No matter how much a parent may try, children may see and hear instances of school shootings.
A study out of my research lab four years ago (McDonald, Leahy, et al., 2010) found that 80 percent of kids exposed to trauma often ask their parents about that trauma. So parents need to be equipped to answer these questions in helpful ways.
Our research has uncovered three helpful tips to guide your discussions about school shootings and violence.
My youngest always fought with me over the littlest of things. Lately I had even resorted to bribing her in return for the peace it brought.
“Put away your plate,” I reminded her after dinner the other night, “otherwise no iPad.”
“I don’t care,” she retorted. “And you can’t stop me.”
Parenting the older adopted child (or any child, for that matter) can be trying. I forever seem to be competing against his impressions that I just can’t relate to his beliefs, ideas, or perceptions, however reasonable they might or might not be.
After all, adults from his past likely were not paragons of physical, mental, or emotional stability. Notwithstanding more than four years together, why should he regard my intentions any differently? Variability in his trust in me to parent him while sensitively meeting his needs still leaves me with little wiggle room to make the right impression.
Have you ever wanted to be in a relationship but felt frustrated because no matter how hard you tried, disappointment or bad results developed?
As an example, let’s follow Joey through a few years of her life, starting from when she first entered college.
Joey was a reflective, serious, and caring young woman. She had a handful of friends whom she dearly appreciated. They had common interests, shared activities, and were available when any of them asked.
As the college years unfolded, Joey wanted to be in a relationship, similar to the ones she observed her friends starting.
For the past couple of years, meditation has been easy. I’d put in some hard work over the previous decade and had found a place of stillness each time I took to the cushion. Sure, sometimes what I met as I observed my mind was difficult, but my practice had become productive and indispensable.
I spent the last two years as a stay-at-home dad of a toddler. I did all of the dad, and much of the mom, stuff. I managed the house, cleaned (badly), cooked (very well), arranged activities and play dates, and did what I could to keep the family satisfied.
None of this was easy, but my daughter napped every day. And while she napped I had a solid 35 minutes to meditate, without fail. I taught a couple of classes each week, and led a Wednesday night drop-in meditation group, but that was more rewarding and fulfilling than taxing.
Then it all came to an end.
Your childhood probably is tucked safely away in the past. But many of us underestimate the degree to which childhood events continue to affect our adult lives. It’s hard to imagine that events that occurred decades ago can stay with us, but underestimating their effects — even into adulthood — can be detrimental to our well-being.
Our most critical and influential developmental stages occur in childhood. We’re like sponges, absorbing the good and the bad all around us. It’s during this time that we develop our view of the world and of ourselves. These viewpoints may be developed early on but they often leave a permanent imprint.
Something like 50 percent of marriages end in divorce, but there’s a special group of us whose parents didn’t call it quits until we were adults. And with the holidays approaching, it’s a little different in our homes.
When people like me were in school, everyone else’s parents were getting divorced. We couldn’t wrap our heads around what that was like for them. Blake said his parents are fighting over him. Julie says she doesn’t have a whole room to herself at her mom’s house so she argues not to stay over there. Some kids were even shuffled around between maternal and paternal grandparents on weekends. Sometimes there was fighting. Sometimes there was palpable grief.
But in the end everyone got through it.
For parents, being self-aware is key for connecting to their kids. When parents aren’t self-aware, they might get caught up in their own emotions instead of being present with their children. They also might not recognize that they’re unconsciously repeating the patterns of their own childhoods in their parenting today.
As Carla Naumburg, Ph.D, writes in her book Parenting in the Present Moment: How to Stay Focused on What Really Matters, “The coping skills and autonomic responses we develop over the years are like the air we breathe. More often than not, we don’t notice that air until it’s choking us.”
Your child is hears (and feels) all of those subtle pot-shots you take at your ex.
Everyone knows the basics of co-parenting: stay kid-focused, don’t use your kids as messengers, never use your kids as scapegoats, show up on time, and don’t talk negatively about your ex in front of your kids. It all seems pretty straight-forward and doable — at least it does on the surface.
But real-life isn’t lived on the surface and sometimes, in all of that “trying” to be nice, you’re actually just being passive-aggressive and probably doing more harm than good. Most of the time it’s pretty obvious whether or not you’re taking care of the basics. You know if you’re staying kid-focused, or using your kids as messengers or scapegoats, or showing up on time, but what might not be as obvious is whether you’re putting out more toxic energy and negativity about your ex in front of your children than you realize.
Psychotherapist Jenifer Hope, LCPC, has worked with many families whose biggest concern is detachment. They feel as though they’re forgetting who their loved ones really are. They don’t have time to get to know their children. “They feel isolated within their own family because everyone is so busy, that there is no actual family time,” she said.
Jennifer Kogan, LICSW, a psychotherapist in Washington, D.C., also sees a shortage of time as the biggest obstacle for families in connecting.