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Strong Connections Lay the Foundation for Mental and Emotional Health

Mental emotional healthThe bond between parent and child is the child’s primary source for emotional health.  Therefore building strong connections lay the foundation for mental and emotional health.

By having a strong connection, it gives your child the capacity to have satisfying relationships the rest of their life. A weak or anxious bond could reverberate through your child’s entire life in the form of low self-esteem, impaired relationships, and the inability to seek help or ask for it in effective ways.

Research indicates that over one-third of the children in middle-class families suffer from anxious attachments to their parents. This insecure attachment tends to be transmitted from one generation to another. Every parent wants to know what early experiences enable a child to feel that the world is a positive place. We ask ourselves how a child becomes equipped with enough confidence to explore, to develop healthy peer relationships, and to rebound from adversity. We seek to know what builds a child who sees himself or herself as being loved, loving, and valuable. We wonder, “Do I have what it takes to raise a secure child? What can I do to support my child or change myself?”

Secure attachment is created by the subtle quality of adult-child interactions. It does not happen because a parent holds, feeds, bathes, or responds to an infant’s cries. It is based on how the adult responds. We have all had the experience of talking with a spouse or friend who looks as though he or she is listening, but something is missing. We have gone to the movies and out to dinner with a friend, having a reasonably good time, but sensing that something is missing. Conversely, we have had experiences with spouses and friends when we felt that a wholeness was present—that they were truly “there” and that we were attuned to the moment and each other. This connection is at the heart of our bonding with children and with each other.
Young children up to age four or five rely on the parent’s affect, or demeanor, to determine whether a situation is safe. Later in life, they can discern this information themselves by environmental clues.

In our hurried society, many are finding the mechanics of parenting all they can handle.  The joy of parenting is lost. Parents are overwhelmed with the pressures of modern life. These demands create times when parents are sometimes physically absent and other times when our bodies are present but our minds are elsewhere.
The ramifications of our well-intentioned absences may manifest themselves in certain behavioural characteristics in our children. We may see our children acting like bullies, taking advantage of more vulnerable children. Or we may see them victimized and excluded by others or excluding themselves to manage their anxiety about failing. We may see our children being impulsive or shy, showing poor concentration skills, getting easily upset, and lacking initiative. Or we may see rampant independence that hardens into stubbornness and bossiness. We may see our children struggle with friendships, jealous and afraid that they may lose the security of a best friend. We might see them shy away from risk and group activities or leap in and take unsafe risks. We might believe these behaviours are part of the child’s genetic temperament. Temperament is a factor; however, brain research indicates that although nature provides the raw materials for brain development, nurture is the architect.
How we interact with our children profoundly shapes their brains. We literally custom design our children’s brains. Many of the behaviours we see can be traced to the original bonding experience between children and their caregivers. As daunting as it may seem, there is hope. Just as children are forgiving, so, too, is the brain—especially in the early years. The brain can be shaped and reshaped by each new experience; like a house that gets dirty, a good cleaning is all it needs.
I Love You Rituals are designed to strengthen the bond between an adult and a child and, in turn, re-establish the child’s sense of security. This secure base then frees the child to explore the world with greater willingness and success. It also builds healthy ties between the adult and child, increasing the child’s willingness to be cooperative. Imagine that you are sitting on your couch at home with your spouse. Lately your relationship has been going very well—communication and connection are at an all-time high. If one of you were to get up and the other asked, “Honey, while you are up, would you get me a sandwich?” more than likely the answer would be, “Sure, what would you like?” Now pretend you are on the couch and the relationship is going poorly—so poorly that you wonder why this person is sitting on your couch. Suppose one person gets up and the other asks for something. The likely response would be, “Get it yourself; you have legs.” Cooperation is directly related to the connection we feel with each other. The same is true with children: Strengthen the bond and increase the cooperative spirit.

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