One in four kids is estimated to have anxiety, which has risen steadily since COVID-19. Its symptoms can be baffling from no longer wanting to…
The wounding words of other kids don’t seem to hurt as much, and the despair that can set in after big losses can be processed through tears and feelings of sadness. The goal of development is to free a child from their dependence on adults by providing the conditions in which they can truly mature. Being connected at the heart level allows a child to stretch and reach their full human potential as an independent being. It moves them to follow and obey their closest attachments and subdues their natural resistance and opposition that comes with increasing autonomy or just disagreeing with your agenda. When a child connects to their adults at the heart level it also becomes a template for future relationships and friendships. It can become the benchmark against which they set expectations as to how they should be treated by others. Being able to give your heart to another person in a vulnerable way is the natural antidote to narcisissim and self-absorption. You learn that love is not something that you hold onto for yourself but is something you freely give to others without conditions. A deep connection immunizes a child against falling for cheap substitutes that act loving towards them but are really self-serving in nature. They are also more likely to seek out people who can truly nourish them at the deepest levels. The capacity to love is unlocked inside a child because they have been deeply loved by others and love them back - this is how emotional intimacy is born.
When a child gives their heart away to an adult, then this adult has the power to shield that child’s heart with their own.
Our gift back to them is to let them feel that we loved them first - before they could love, before they could feel deeply, and even before their heart started to beat. Our promise to them is that they won’t have to work for our love and that this is something we give to them freely – without conditions. If we don’t say yes to a deeper bond with them they cannot hold onto us. We don’t have to agree or disagree with their marriage proposal at face value but rather, answer their question at the place that it matters. We need to answer the deepest hunger they have and one that can only be filled with an invitation for relationship that is unwavering. A deeper love between us is nature’s plan. One day, when they are older, we may get to watch them give their heart to another person and hear those words, “for better or worse, and in sickness and in health,” to cement their relationship. We may remember back to a time when they gave their heart to us too and we will take comfort knowing that we dwelled there first and that first loves are forever. Dr. Deborah MacNamara is the Director of Kid's Best Bet, a family counselling centre, she is on Faculty at the Neufeld Institute, and is the author of Rest, Play, Grow: Making Sense of Preschoolers (or anyone who acts like one), which has been translated into 9 languages.
When our children give us their hearts we need to say yes – and not a simple yes to reassure them that “I love you too.” It has to be the type of yes that resounds deeply in their bones that we love them more.
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