As I stood in the kitchen, I could hear “M” playing in her bedroom. Little Bubby was playing in the room too. She was talking to him, but he was not listening nor even looking at her. She was pretending she is the mom and he is the dad — and she was telling him all about their baby.
She didn’t care that he’s distracted in parallel play. She didn’t care at all that he wasn’t really playing with her. But she did shut the door to prevent him from wandering away. She simply does not want to be alone. She needs a friend.
Our little 3-year-old needs people near her all the time. She constantly asks if she can get in the pack-n-play with Baby Sis. If she isn’t near one of them, she is resting her hand on me. She needs community and to connect.
Sometimes, as parents, we operate as if children do not need family.
Humans are designed to need healthy, consistent interaction from Day 1. Unfortunately, many children do not get that care.
This past weekend, Joey and I were able to attend a parenting conference. In particular, this training focused on children with difficult pasts: any child who had a stressful infancy or childhood; any child who had experienced trauma, abuse, or neglect; any child who was harmed by someone that should have protected him or her; any child who was exposed to drugs or alcohol in utero; even any child born prematurely who was unable to be held while in NICU. Children with these histories, are impacted neurologically. Simply put, their brains do not respond in the same way a child’s brain with a healthy beginning does.
Adoptive parent Terri Coley said: “A child from a hard place needs much more than a safe place to live.” The premise of the training is this: Relationships heal what relationships harmed.
Deep healing takes intentionality. Dr. Karyn Purvis said, “There is no quick fix for a child who has been harmed. … If you understand your child’s needs and you’re able to give it, tremendous healing can occur. It’s gonna take time.” She recommends Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI). It’s a balance of structure and nurture (Eph. 6:4). It is purposeful parenting. TBRI requires me to invest myself in my children.
I recently told a friend: “It’s tough to be an introvert with clingy kids.” I recognize (and do my best to overcome) my natural tendency to seek Me Time. Even though I want to connect with the kids, I sometimes get “lost” in the day-to-day tasks. This is nearly every parent’s struggle, too.
I get it: Parenting is hard. It’s exhausting, even when you have the resources you need. For now, I am so thankful for a preschooler who reminds me, “I need you!” Or when her actions say: I need my family!
I know that she will stop asking one day, “Mommy, will you hold me?” Yet she will always need connection in an age-appropriate way. As God enables, I will strive to meet her emotional needs.
Keep up the good (hard) work, moms and dads! Your kids need you. 🙂
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Elaine and her husband, Joey, are licensed as an adoptive family and foster home in Ohio.