By Nikki Taylor, Senior Manager, Early Years and Family Supports, Oakville Parent-Child Centre
“Children must never work for our love; they must rest in it.”
Dr. Gordon Neufeld, Developmental Psychologist
As a young child, I recollect watching my parents as they played, celebrated, and worked with friends and family. When I think back, I remember happy and joyful adults who enjoyed being together in the good times and bad. It provided me with a great sense of security, a belief that I could trust adults; that I belonged with them and they would take care of me. I was relaxed, knowing I was safe. In the words of Dr. Gordon Neufeld, I could “rest in the relationship”. Security created a space where I felt protected from stresses in life and could focus my energy on the important things in childhood. My parents helped to keep my heart soft because they had soft hearts.
Interdependence is defined as “the state of being dependent upon one another”. Deep down we know that we are better together. We crave connection and belonging, yet are often confused by the dichotomy created by the commonly-held view that strength and competence require independence and self-sufficiency. If we believe this, we can resist connecting with others and receiving their support. We can fear that trust and vulnerability might be judged and criticized. Over time, this fear can be too much and a “wall” grows to protect our hearts .
Nature has designed us to be interdependent and it is our deep, caring relationships that keep our hearts soft and vulnerable. Those of us who influence, teach and raise children require soft and vulnerable hearts to do the job well. Brene Brown’s parenting manifesto PDF is one of my favorite parenting resources and speaks to the need to be vulnerable, authentic, make mistakes and love unconditionally.
I love a challenge and here is one for you. On Family Day, this Monday, February 18, allow your children to experience a day where you have put away distractions and are focused on what really matters.
- Let them feel what it is like to be truly seen.
- Smile and say hello, even to strangers.
- Let your guard down, put your phone down, and spend some time in the present moment.
- Light up when they walk in the room.
- When they look at you, make sure you are looking back at them with kind eyes and a soft heart.
The only thing that matters to them is knowing that they exist, that they are important, and are worthy of your time, attention and love. At the end of the day when it’s quiet – reflect. I suspect you may find more inner peace, less stress, and happier children. And I bet everyone will sleep more soundly…and little softer too.
Happy Family Day from my family to yours.
“Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family: Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.”
Jane Howard, journalist