Connection does not Always Equate to Happiness

connectionI’m focusing on the word Connection today. I speak a lot here about doing inner work, finding moments of connectedness with your children and trying to remain present and in the moment. And I really wanted to clarify something:

 

Having a connected moment with your child does not always mean that in that moment you are both experiencing calm, happiness or joy.

 

It can, but not always.

 

  • Sometimes being connected means sitting close to your toddler while she cries and thrashes on the floor because you poured her milk in the wrong coloured cup.
  • Sometimes being connected means listening to your baby cry in your arms without shushing or bouncing or patting her, but simply allowing her to release some of the stress and overstimulation from her day.
  • Sometimes being connected means listening to your child express her fear, pain and anger- not replying quickly with a “You’re OK” or “Your sister didn’t mean to…” or a “That’s not fair, I wasn’t…” or “Don’t be scared.” Being connected means simply listening, acknowledging and being present with her suffering.
  • Sometimes being connected means taking a few minutes to truly observe your child’s fear, frustration, anger, boredom and to let it be without acting on the urge to want to change or fix the problem.

 

Dr Aletha Solter is a developmental psychologist who studied under the inspirational Jean Piaget and is the founder The Aware Parenting Movement. From her article, Understanding Tears and Tantrums:

 

“Crying is not the hurt, but the process of becoming unhurt. A child’s tears or tantrums are not an indication of an incompetent parent. On the contrary, crying indicates that the child feels safe enough to bring up painful feelings, and is not afraid of being rejected.”

 

When we were children many of us were either distracted from crying (“Here, watch this TV show” or “Here, take this candy”) or ridiculed for crying (“Big boys don’t cry”) or punished for crying (“If you don’t stop crying, I’ll give your something to cry about”) or dictated to (“Stop your crying!” or “Don’t cry…”). Expressing anger, upset and sadness is not readily accepted in Western culture. We were taught from a young age that these feelings are negative, uncomfortable, undesirable and embarrassing. It is no wonder then that when our own children express suffering, our knee-jerk reaction is to stop it as quickly as possible.

A strong Daily Rhythm decreases the number of frustrations, stresses and disappointments in a child’s day. The sense of predictability and flow provided by a strong rhythm gives a child a sense of confidence that the world is safe and good, but it does not create a utopian bubble that shields your child from all stress and pain (thank goodness- for this is a rich and beautiful part of our diverse human experience!). Natural stressors are a part of everyday life- things such as separation anxiety, accidents, conflict between friends and even happy but overstimulating occasions such as birthday parties, playdates or going to the shops.

Crying and being able to express the entire range of our feelings releases built-up stress from a child’s (and parents’!) body. We listen in loving sympathy and reflect our child’s feelings back to her (“You really wanted the red cup today. Are you feeling disappointed I gave you the blue one?“). We are not giving her the red cup. We are acknowledging that sometimes things happen in life that are not what we wanted and it’s OK to feel disappointed when this happens. As Solther points out, “Children do not cry indefinitely. They stop of their own accord when they are finished. After crying, there is a usually a feeling of relief and wellbeing. The incident that triggered the crying is no longer an issue, and the child usually becomes happy and cooperative.”

With your acknowledgement your child will feel understood and heard. And for me, that is the root of the word connection: con from the latin for ‘together’ and nectere from the latin “to bind”.

Connection: A sense of deep understanding that binds family members together as human beings.

5 Responses to Connection does not Always Equate to Happiness

  1. I have a question. When I acknowledge my child’s frustrations she just yells back at me “You can’t say that!” Even tho I’m repeating to her exactly what she said. I’ve tried not verbally responding back and she repeats her complaint until I say something. Help! How do I connect in this moment? I can’t seem to come along side her in these moments no matter what way I approach it.

    • Hi Adair, does your daughter express a need or desire to be left alone with her feelings at times like this? I think there is also something to be said about honouring their wishes and trusting that they know what they want in the heat of the moment. Maybe she wants space when she’s in the throes of her feelings and the time for connection is later on?

      • I am not sure… I’ve tried simply walking away or being “busy” and she will follow me screaming (she is 3). It feels on occasion that she wants the struggle, as crazy as that sounds.
        I used to place her in her room and leave, explaining we can talk when she calms down. That has helped. I havnt done that in a while because of reading advice to stick with the child in their moment of frustration . Maybe I need to go back to that tho and test it out. Thanks for the insight!

        • I know a lot of the advice says to stick with them and I see where it’s coming from- you don’t want to “punish” them for their strong feelings by banishing them to their room, but sometimes we all need a bit of breathing room to calm down before coming together.

          Blessings! x m.

  2. I love this. Had a moment just like this today, where my toddler was disappointed we had to leave the library and go home. After a meltdown when we arrived home, he was so calm and relieved, wanting to cuddle. I was an emotional child and remember always being told ‘there’s no reason to cry’ or ‘stop crying’. I want my children to know they can express any emotion they have.