Much of what shapes our beliefs about self, others and the world stem from the quality of attachment to parents and primary caregivers. It impacts self-esteem and the secure base in which we learn to explore the world. According to Jasmin Lee Cori, LPC and the author of The Emotionally Absent Mother, “Studies show that securely attached children have enhanced emotional flexibility, social functioning and cognitive abilities. As middle school children, they handle frustration and challenge better, and when they start falling behind, they try harder rather than collapse as insecure children do.”
Parents have an opportunity from the moment of birth to create an emotionally safe nest which has the potential to positively shape their child for his/her lifetime to come. Words and actions (including body language and intent) offer powerful sign posts to even very young children about their inherent value. Remember that kids don’t have the brain development to make sense of their parent’s actions and they tend to internalize much of their external world, particularly when it comes to whether their needs are being met. Jasmin Lee Cori describes ten basic important messages to be received by a child’s mother – but they certainly all apply to both parents.
Parents, do your children know…
- that you’re glad they are here?
- that you see and know them?
- that they are special to you?
- that you love them?
- that their needs are important to you?
- that you will make time for them?
- that you’ll keep them safe?
- that they can be themselves with you?
- that you enjoy them?
If they know these things, you can be proud that you likely have very securely attached children who will more likely move through life knowing they are ok, others can be relied upon and the world can bring positive things. You should also consider yourselves lucky to know this and have likely had experiences as children that modeled the above – or enough awareness to do something different.
If your children don’t necessarily know these things now, you can do something different. People usually do the best they can at the time with what they know and what they are able to handle. Things like overwhelm, a dysfunctional upbringing for the parents and other factors can negatively impact everything and may even yield an abusive situation.
If your children are still very young, you can change your behavior from here on out. If there’s uncertainty around what that means, find a local parenting expert/therapist to help guide you. If they are old enough to be able to have a useful discussion, a good place to start is with acknowledgment, validation, sincerity and patience to heal the wounds. If you have adult children, you can attempt the same dialogue (if they are open to it). The payoff has the potential to be life changing for you – and your children. Do not underestimate the role you play in their lives! (See Emotional Wounds: Ways They Can Show Up in Your Relationships). If significant anger, disconnection or ruptures have occurred, you might benefit from the assistance of a family therapist.
The cycle can be broken.0