Often parents state “I’m always with my children.” But I have learned as a parent and therapist there is so much more to “being with” your children. We often miss the signals that children are really looking for from us. Children intrinsically need to know that they are connected to us and we “get” them even in the hardest of times, particularly those times when their emotions are heightened. Nothing brings this to the forefront quite like back to school.
During the fall, back to school chaos shows us the missing pieces in our parenting ways. Suddenly, parents have a forced agenda, kids are shuffled from one place to another on a different schedule and the moments you have with your child can become fleeting and chaotic. WE feel the parent shame of not doing enough, “why don’t you have them in this or that class?” As parents we are faced with the judgement of others and our internal shame of “am I doing enough or the right thing?” Parents, the struggle is REAL! How can you connect with your kids and be with them, in the chaos? How can you meet them where they are at? How can you have a healthy relationship that is growth oriented and healthy, amid the busy-ness? How can we have self compassion and empathy for ourselves?
As play therapists we use a number of tenets in how to “be with” a child in an authentic way. For parents, “being with” is being fully present with the child in front of you--that is, interacting with the child through observing, listening, and making statements of recognition. Children often experience the agenda of adults (get them ready for school, get them to school, get their homework done, put food in their bodies, get them to sleep), which is needed to help children accomplish the tasks of their day. However, children are more than just pieces to the game. Children are people (not miniature adults!) and experience deep emotions. They are worthy of mutual respect and honesty from the grown ups around them.
"Being with" is recognizing that the child may be having difficult feelings around a task that needs to be done (for example, getting ready for school). By recognizing the feeling a child is having in the moment, does not mean the child will not get ready for school, but instead allows the child to feel as though their needs are truly being seen and heard alongside the task. Giving them space to problem solve by engaging their “thinking” brains versus being stuck in their “emotional” brains melting down. For humans,