My friend and colleague Kim Fredrickson, MFT, is releasing her new book about parenting with compassion:Give Your Kids a Break – Parenting with Compassion for You and Your Children. After the past decade of teaching people to have compassion for themselves, she has turned this grace onto the parent-child bond. This is a must read for every parent at any stage of life.
Parenting is hard. We face huge challenges trying to effectively parent in this ever changing, difficult world. It is hard to live in, never mind raise children in. Being a parent gives us indescribable joy, and also zaps us of everything—energy, finances, time, and sometimes even confidence.
Building emotional closeness with your children is the foundation upon which everything else is built. Compassion is at the heart of emotional closeness. Without a close emotional relationship, children will have trouble adopting our moral values, accepting discipline, and developing a solid self-esteem. We love our children and are willing to do almost anything for them. Sometimes we don’t know how to communicate our love in ways that sink down deep into our kids’ hearts and souls.
Having a warm feeling in our hearts for our children is not enough. Telling them we love them is not enough. Loving them through actions that are meaningful to them carries far more weight than just the words we use. Kids need practical, hands-on interactions to feel loved and that they belong.
Compassion helps us understand and relate to our children, which helps us be less reactive. Discipline, applied with compassion, protects the closeness of the relationship.
Positive emotional interactions between parent and child have a huge impact on children’s well-being and long-term success. A solid emotional connection with your children is more important than the kind of discipline you use.
What is an Emotional Bond?
“A bond between two people is an emotional and personal investment they have in one another. It is a relationship in which all of the parts of the soul—feelings, needs, thoughts, values, beliefs, joys, and sorrows—are shared with and valued by another…
When we are bonded, we ‘matter’ to someone. When we are connected to another person, we feel that we make a difference to him, that our presence is desired when we are around and missed when we are absent. This sense of ‘mattering’ is in direct contrast to feeling overlooked, forgotten, or even simply tolerated by others.”
~ Unlocking Your Family Patterns by Henry Cloud, John Townsend, Dave Carder, and Earl Henslin, page 118.
Think how powerful it would be to have this type of emotional bond with your children. Imagine what would it feel like as a child to have this loving bond with your parents. This way of relating establishes a safe and secure foundation to handle the ups and downs of life.
Give Your Kids a Break: Parenting with Compassion for You and Your Children helps parents treat themselves with kindness as they struggle with the demands of parenting. It helps them teach their children how to be compassionate with themselves as they learn new things, obey boundaries, learn to be responsible, and manage their emotions, money, and chores.
What Difference Does This Emotional Bond Make?
It makes a huge difference to the success and well-being of your child, as well as makes parenting easier. Studies have shown that when children feel emotionally close to their parents, they:
- feel more content on the inside
- have higher self-esteem
- get sick physically less often
- do better academically
- get along better with friends
- have fewer behavior problems
- are less prone to acts of violence, and
- are less vulnerable to find a place to belong with peers
When children feel connected emotionally to their parents, there are fewer power struggles and more joy. It isn’t enough to feel love for our children, we need to express it in ways our children can feel, and meet their deep emotional needs.
It is important to ask ourselves, “What types of words and activities cause my child to feel loved,” not “What makes me feel loved?”
What Happens If This Emotional Bond Does Not Occur? Children may feel unloved, unimportant, angry, depressed, and alone. They may act out these painful feelings in behavior problems. Young children may find themselves hitting, dawdling, crying, biting, and refusing to be cooperative as they struggle with built-up feelings inside. Teenagers may turn to substances or activities to numb the pain and loneliness inside, such as drugs, alcohol, sex, and excessive internet use and screen time.
There are many ways that build this emotional bond with our children, and there are many ways that break it down. I have an entire chapter devoted to this crucial topic in my new book, Give Your Kids a Break: Parenting with Compassion for You and Your Children.
How Do I Start to Build a Compassionate Bond with My Children?
- Pray, and ask God for wisdom and help. Ask Him to help you begin to increase the emotional closeness between you and your children. Ask Him to give you wisdom where to start with each child.
- Learn how to build emotional closeness with your children. It’s not too late to learn how to parent with your children.
- Pray for patience and the ability to make needed changes.
Realize that we tend to duplicate the level of emotional closeness we grew up with. You may tend to gravitate toward the type of closeness you had growing up, even if you want this to be different in your family now. Think about how much closeness was in your family of origin. The good news is it’s possible to make changes, but it will take concentrated effort.
The time and effort to build a close emotional bond with your children will benefit your children for a lifetime, make parenting easier, and bring you more joy as a parent.
Kim has been married to her husband, Dave for thirty-nine years and they have two grown children. Learn more and read her blog at www.kimfredrickson.com She also writes a weekly patient column for Pulmonary Fibrosis News, Just Breathe…Compassionate Help for the PF Journey. Thousands of patients and their loved ones read her column all over the world.