Think about the relationship between parents and kids as a mountainous range. There are highs and lows in the relationship, there are some rocky areas and some beautiful moments. There is also a constant sense of closeness and distance which is always changing and shifting, especially as kids grow into teenagers and young adults. If we think of a relationship in this way, we can see how important closeness and distance is to a parent/child relationship and to relationships in general.
Focusing on Closeness
It is crucial that parents and their children have a closeness which allows them both to feel safe and open to one another. They should share a sense of attunement with one another which allows them to understand one another without saying any words to each other. Their ability to read each other’s body language or empathise with one another is paramount. They are able to spend time together both in groups and one on one, and feel safe with each other in both situations. On the flip side, it is equally important that kids have the space to grow into their own people with their own personalities. This requires parents to step aside and allow kids to make their own mistakes, draw from their own sense of self as a resource and feel free to have their own opinion. Allowing kids/teens the space to be their own person is a developmental task which means it is part of growing healthy and emotionally stable. Kids who do not have this space as they grow, may second guess themselves and feel as though they need other people around to help them make decisions. They may feel as though they are never fully safe without their parents in their lives, and for this reason, they find it difficult to venture out into the world and find themselves.
This presents a particularly difficult balancing act for parents who need to help their kids mature and keep them safe while they are young and then have to pull themselves away and give their kids space when they become teenagers. It is quite a huge ask of a person to give a child everything they have and then ask the same person to stand back and watch the same kid who they have poured so much of themselves into, make mistakes or have opposing beliefs. It is like two parts of a person being at odds with itself.
What You Can Do
1) Remember that kids crave one on one time with a safe adult and adolescents want to choose how they have closeness with a safe adult.
2) Try to get on your child’s level – engage them in what they are interested in.
3) Empathising with their world and life will take you a long way in boosting your connection with your child. Try emotion coaching.
Most ranges have break-off points where mountains turn to valleys or rivers. Mountains need to watch as the valleys shift and the rivers dry and meander. Mountains need to stand solid while the creatures below it grow, hunt, starve or die. Mountains need to be strong to support all the trees that grow upon them. We ask so much of mountains and expect them to know what to do when things go wrong – maybe we don’t appreciate them enough?