…an adorable baby,
…a teen with attitude,
…an exhausted working parent
…and a fragile nursing home resident
have in common?
To start with they are all human. And like all of us they have deep longings for love, security, understanding, significance and belonging. These basic emotional needs form the foundation of relationships across the life span.
I am reminded of this when I am with my grandsons, aged eight, six and four. I love having the three of them for an overnight – one at a time. Undivided attention plus no competition brings out the best in them.
Eight asks endless questions, explores anything new or different, revisits old favorites, is constantly on the move. Six turns on his megawatts smile. Wants to read books, bake cookies, help Grandpa with a building project. Four creates robots and guns out of legos or play dough, endlessly tests his growing physical prowess and loves to cuddle.
But – you knew a ‘but’ was coming didn’t you?
When they are all together at Grammy and Grandpa’s house everything changes. They fight over toys, try to outdo each other, take turns having melt downs, run Grammy and Grandpa ragged.
What are they fighting for? Limited resources of time and attention. As the center of attention children feel loved, secure. Sense of significance? Off the charts.
Today’s parents agonize over giving their children the best of activities, opportunities and choices. While these things are important, more crucial still is creating an atmosphere that communicates:
It’s not always easy to meet these core emotional needs for the children in our lives.
Babies and toddlers are helpless, needy, exhausting. Fortunately they are also lovable, entertaining and enchanting. They illicit the most intense frustration and the deepest delight from parents and grandparents.
School agers and ‘tweens can be a delight – or not – as they master skills and absorb knowledge at a phenomenal rate. And many a parent despairs over whether they or their children will survive the teen years.
No, it is not easy.
But it is crucial. If a firm sense of belonging, security and significance are developed in childhood our children will be well prepared to enjoy healthy adult relationships.
One-on-one time with parents, grandparents or other key adults communicates belonging and significance, helping to lay a solid foundation for healthy relationships throughout life.
What better gift to give a child in your life?
Also published on Medium.
I am a North Carolina Licensed Professional Counselor with 20 years experience in the field and many more years of life experience. I entered the counseling profession in mid-life after putting in time as a stay-at-home mom, a freelance writer, a journalist, and a United States-based missionary. I love walking alongside those who are seeking to find themselves, heal a relationship, or recover from trauma. In my spare time, I enjoy reading, writing, and hanging out with my grandsons.