Your child is on the playground and falls. She isn’t injured badly, but clearly the wind has been knocked out and it scared her. What do you do? How do you feel in that moment? Are you stifling your own fears? (She could really have gotten badly injured!!) Are you feeling disconnected? (She shouldn’t have been doing that and she deserves to get hurt.) Are you proud because she brushes herself off and goes back to playing? Are you annoyed when she bursts into tears and comes running over to you?
We often have discrepancies between the way we’d like to react and the way we actually react in situations with our children and with our partner. Sometimes we go through the motions of what we’re supposed to do without feeling it. We know that we need to comfort our child when they’ve fallen, but we don’t necessarily always feel like comforting them. It is important to listen to those feelings and recognize that those are clues about our deep beliefs about what connection really means. They can also point the way to places that still need to heal within yourself.
Those automatic reactions are often a glimpse into your own experiences as a child, whether you remember them or not. What do you really believe about connection with others? I don’t mean what you think about it. I mean how you show up in the world with regards to connection. Not just what you do, but how you feel about it.
Karen, a mom I worked with a few years ago, talked about how she really wanted a deep connection with her kids. She knew that she was supposed to comfort them when they were hurt, scared, or upset, but she didn’t feel it. She would go through the motions of what she knew intellectually that her children needed, but she wasn’t feeling it.
As we explored more about this, Karen volunteered that her mom had never really comforted her when she was upset, scared, hurt. She had to work really hard to just do the part that she knew she needed to do, but she hadn’t experienced it growing up.
We can’t give what we haven’t received. We can go through the motions of becoming the parent we want to be, but we’re missing part of it if we haven’t opened ourselves to receiving love from others.
So how do we change this?
First, it is never too late to change those early experiences.
You can begin right now by finding someone with whom to share something emotional or important to you. It could be about parenting, but really it could be anything as long as it is important to you. (Something that happened at work or with a friend, if you need an idea…)
Second, change is as close to you as a friend or your partner.
Choose someone you believe can really hear you. Maybe it’s your partner, a good friend or another loved one. Consider beginning by just looking someone else in the eyes, if that is something you haven’t been doing on a regular basis. See how it feels to you. What comes up? Where do you feel resistance? Does it feel good? Did you feel you don’t deserve it? Share that, too. That’s part of your experience.
Third, we heal in relationship.
We heal old wounds in present time by having a different, more connected experience now. This is true for you and it’s true for your kids, as well. Karen was blessed to have a loving partner who was happy to help her in any way he could. I encouraged her to spend time with him, looking in his eyes and sharing what was coming up in her relationship with their children, especially those times when she was scared, hurt, or upset herself.
Karen made the commitment to spending at least 5 minutes every day sharing something and allowing her partner to just be with her, holding her hands and looking in her eyes. Connecting deeply with her partner allowed her to begin to experience what she didn’t get when she was growing up when she was feeling something and needed to be comforted.
It was difficult for her at first. It felt strange and she often diverted her eyes. But over time, she was able to let her partner be there for her the way she wanted to be there for her children. And within a few months, the way she felt with her children when they needed her began to change, too.
Creating the space for YOU to connect with others is a great first step in connecting more deeply with yourself.
And it is essential if we want to feel our way through parenting and connect more deeply with those we love in our lives. Are you willing to accept the challenge? If you’re willing, try it and share your experience with me by posting in the comments below. I’d love to hear what happens for you.
Did you know that I offer something called Healing Story Circles where parents can connect with one another in a safe virtual space so they can feel seen, heard, and felt? It’s a space of reflective listening, where we have the EXPERIENCE of safe connection to explore whatever is coming up for us in parenting and life. The Healing Story Circles happen twice every month as a part of my Academy membership. If you need another layer of support on your healing journey, consider joining us! You also get unlimited access to my parenting content- support, information and inspiration on your parenting journey! Click here to learn more and to join the Academy!
If you’d prefer one-on-one support sessions, look into my consultation services where we can explore your own story from the comfort of home (or your car if that’s the quiet place you can find). Sessions are virtual via Zoom or Skype (both video chat rooms) or phone. If you’re local to Tampa Bay, sessions can also be in person in my Pinellas County office. Learn more about sessions and purchase here.
Rebecca Thompson Hitt, MS, MFT is the mother of 2 boys, now ages 18 and 13 and married to her loving, wordsmithing and photographer extraordinaire husband, Trä. She has her masters in Marriage and Family Therapy from Barry University and a bachelors in education from Ball State University. Her passion is helping families to connect more deeply and lead more peaceful lives as a result. She specializes in supporting families to start off with connection from the beginning of life, nurturing the connection as kids (and parents) grow, and healing the inevitable disconnections that happen in parenting and life. Rebecca loves working with more challenging situations and has a unique perspective on the impact of early life experiences on individuals and families. She lives in Florida, embraces a minimalist lifestyle and can’t wait until she can hit the road with her family to travel again later this year.