Connection: the relational energy that exists between people.
If you have read anything from me in the last year, you know that I have a high value for meaningful connection. I really wanted to acknowledge that not all connection is the same. So I defined two types that have been present in my own life.
Life giving connection and wounding connection
Life giving connection brings nurture, comfort, compassion, and empathy into relationships. It creates a safe space to process. It lowers reaction, and increases responses. It ushers in peace to the most tormented places of our hearts. It naturally pulls our pain to the surface because the love and safety is tangible. Life giving connection is the foundation for safe processing and healing. It has a standard to honor those relationships. And it connects us even deeper to our identity.
Wounding connection brings shame, blame, rejection, comparison, and pain into relationships. It cultivates reactions or disengagement instead of responses. It naturally turns on our fight or flight response on in our brain. And it actually creates an environment for pain to become bigger, and in some cases louder. It withholds love, compassion, nurture, comfort, and empathy in relationships. It also disconnects us from our identity.
Children need life giving connection to grow and thrive. They need life giving connection for the development of a healthy self esteem. They need life giving connection to develop emotional intelligence. They need life giving connection to learn, to develop trust between the parent and child, and to create healthy lines of communication. Life giving connection is absolutely foundational for them to learn healthy relational connection in their future.
So how can we create life giving connection with our children?
Laura Duncan, a life consultant that I respect so much, does a teaching on emotional needs and triggers that is transformative. She’s also writing a parenting book that I am STOKED about. Her teachings gave me some language to articulate what I had been discovering on my parenting journey, and guided me into more meaningful conversations with my kids.
I always notice more meltdowns, hard behaviors, and less cooperation when our connection is off. So it’s sort of a gut check. I pay attention to their louder emotions, and gently peel the layers into the softer emotions. And in those softer emotions, lays the pain or unmet need that is driving the challenging behavior or meltdowns.
When I can meet them there with peace, tenderness, and empathy, I see how much it nurtures our relationship. So I focus on being WITH them in those moments, instead of against them.
You would not believe the flip switch a child will do, when they know that you are FOR them and you are WITH them.
Pretend that you saw a child that was learning to walk, fall and scrape their knee. Naturally, there will be lots of tears. But you’re not going to run over there grab them by the arm, tell them to stop crying, lecture them about being more careful, and express your frustration because they should get it by now.
You would hug them, comfort them, clean them up, acknowledge their pain, and assure them that it’s going to be okay. Set them back up and encourage them to try again.
This is what it looks like to be with them and for them.
So here is Laura’s list. It’s referencing emotional needs from birth through age 12. And children need these from Mom and Dad. Unconditionally.
To be seen
To be heard
To be accepted
Know they are good enough
It’s a great tool to start a discussion with your children. By using their big emotions as a guide into questions, you can break into those moments with clarity, and actually get to the bottom of what’s going on. Big emotional reactions are always a symptom of something underneath. My experience has been that fits, meltdowns, and strong reactions are just that...symptoms. And when I can discover the root, and bring empathy to the table, our relationship is stronger, it’s nourished, it creates an environment for growth, and it cultivates intimacy , love, and trust.
Learning to tap into that place will be your superpower.
By stepping into your child’s process, you have an opportunity to truly disciple them.
And it teaches us, as parents, how to connect to children in a way that brings life back into their hearts. You are creating a family culture that cultivates unity, connection, and honor.
I’ve sat with my children, encouraging them to connect to their hearts, teaching them who God is, and it’s been one of the greatest rewards of motherhood...
And the more that I have parented, the more I have realized that the gospel doesn’t JUST look like sitting down every day to read our bible and do bible crafts but it also looks like meeting my children in the place that they are at, intentionally connecting, and generously giving them the things that their hearts need in order to thrive. It‘s connecting them to the source of all good gifts, a Father that loves even in our biggest messes.
My hope is that you feel empowered to pursue deeper relationships with your children, and that you would have the reward of watching them bloom in front of your eyes. My hope is that you would see the soil that you are planting your children in, and that it inspires you to make it as rich as possible.
Mama, you are not just planting seeds into the children you get to hold. But you are planting seeds into their future relationships. Their marriages, their children, and many generations beyond them will feel the quality of what was planted. Seeds that will grow and stretch beyond your lifespan. And you have the privilege to establish the integrity of those seeds right now, while they are developing a framework to see the world.
NOTE: if you want to hear one of Laura’s teachings, I’ll link it below. She goes into more detail on this list, and how these needs manifest in adulthood when they are unmet in childhood. And you would get the benefit of hearing more of her wisdom and heart behind what she does.
GO LISTEN TO HER.