Updated: Mar 29, 2021
There’s a famous quote from the General Theory of Love that says, “Feed and clothe a human infant but deprive him of emotional contact [and] he will die.”
Caring for a child is much more than just providing the basics of shelter, food, and clothing.
When I first started working with families, I was considered a Parent Educator. People were often confused of what I do, thinking I was teaching new parents how to prepare for having a child. Learning about nutrition, or how to baby proof a home, or how to bathe an infant or change a diaper. That’s when I realized I needed to change my title! But being a great parent has much to do with raising children to be emotionally healthy individuals, more so than what style of house they live in or what brand of clothes they wear. Sure, physical needs are absolutely necessary to feel emotionally secure with the stability of having a place to come home to and knowing nourishment will be provided for a healthy body, and when hungry. But building a sense of safety and trust is essential for the human brain to thrive.
A mother is the first connection a baby has in the world. A baby has a soul connection with its mother in the womb. A baby has a physical connection, sharing the mother’s blood, nourishment, growing from a seed into a full human. A mother’s voice is the first sound a baby hears.
When a baby is born, an unconditional sense of trust and connection with its mother has already developed. Despite feelings of fear and curiosity moving from a warm dark wet rhythmic heartbeated womb, into a bright airy open loud environment, the baby feels instant safety in the arms of its mother.
For this reasoning, to keep a baby feeling safe and secure, it is essential to tend to an infant when they cry out. A baby does not know how to communicate any other way, than to make sounds. They will in time, learn which sounds to make to receive the care they long for. A fussy whimper might be the sound they make when hungry, whereas a louder belting cry might be because they are in pain – perhaps from a diaper poking their skin or a tummy ache.
We as parents, learn which sounds mean what, but the important thing to remember is that the concept of leaving a baby unattended to cry itself to sleep, otherwise called in the olden days ‘self-soothing’ has resulted in the baby feeling abandoned, therefore losing trust of its caretaker. “If no one comes when I am in pain or hungry or tired or lonely, then I must not matter.” Research has shown that the human brain not only desires physical and social connections, but it will not thrive without it.
This is the case for all stages and ages of children. A child’s cry has a purpose. It is what they are feeling at that time. They might be tired or hungry, angry or sad. All people are allowed to have emotions. It is how God made us. That said emotion might not be valid to you, but it is to them. We need to honor another’s emotion, as we want others to honor our feelings.
When an emotionally absent parent breaks the trust of their child, it is difficult for that child to grow up and make deep connections with other people. If so, trust is something that the child may never be able to do as a teen or adult, which can lead to lifelong feelings of abandonment or loneliness, depression, and overwhelm of thinking they have no support when in need.
We as mothers (and parents), have got to show empathy for what our children are feeling. An unresolved issue to a child can stay with them for a lifetime. Something that may seem small to an adult, feels like the end of the world to a child, leaving them with emotions of neglect and unloved. I encourage you to do these following check-ins with your child each day:
NEVER send your child off to bed without resolving issues. If you scolded your child or expressed disappointment in your child, please make sure to let them know how much you love them before they go to sleep each night. An upset or sensitive child could lie awake all night having feelings of self-doubt and unworthiness, which can lead to depression, then snowballing into unhealthy coping skills, poor attitude, failing grades, and loss of friends. “I understand you made a poor choice today, but we are going to work through it together so next time you will know how to make a better choice. All people make mistakes sometimes. I love you no matter what!”
Teach your children to never leave an issue unresolved, by showing them how to problem solve and make amends. You as a parent are your child’s teacher and role model. Sometimes you may need to take a deep breath and step away, and tell your child “I need to process this, but I will come back later tonight to discuss”. But you must still show your love daily, despite your anger or frustration. Being upset with someone doesn’t mean you stopped loving them. But to a child, that can be difficult to understand.
Ask your children each day to see how they are feeling about school, friends, and themselves. Most children just reply with “Fine” when a parent asks how their day went, but if you ask more detailed and specific questions, you will get more details and specific answers. “Who did you sit next to at lunch today? Do you like that person?”. “How do you feel about the test you took at school today? Was it easy or hard?”. “I love the artwork you did. How do you feel about it?”
Your child will notice you care and realize you are their support to rely on and to trust.
As I write this, I realize the abundant blessing it was for me to be able to birth my two children. However, I know God has different plans for each of us. For my friend, Tina, I know God led her to care for several beautiful souls as a foster and adoptive parent. Some of you reading this might have unexpectedly taken guardianship of a relative, or emerged with a blended family. While others might not be a mother at all, but a father instead. Nonetheless we are parents, and we love our children endlessly. No matter your path to parenting, your child will naturally long for your unconditional love, your nurture, your attention, and a deep connection with you. Always and forever.
*Techniques are discussed and taught more thoroughly in The Soulful Family Coach program using formulas for problem solving, verbal and non-verbal communication, and nurturing tools.