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Love on an Empty Stomach
When parents are working on supporting their children through a rough patch, an important part of the solution is making sure to connect with them. Along with other strategies, I always make sure to include this important piece. If you’re asking your child to try hard to manage or erase a behavior, it’s important they are all “fueled up” for the job. And our kids’ fuel is rest, food, and CONNECTION.
Often times parents come back and say that they’ve tried…but it’s no fun at all. They tried to play, they tried to have a one-on-one date…and it was miserable. Their child whined, was bossy, threw a fit about the smallest things….it all felt like a waste of time. You’re even more frustrated with your child than when you started!
I remind parents and teachers (and myself) all the time that when a child is the MOST frustrating….the HARDEST to please….when you want to run far, FAR away from her….this is the time she needs you the most.
When a child is the hardest to be around, he is the most in need of connection. He is lonely, or stressed, or sad…..he is the hungriest for us.
All of us have heard the idea, or experienced it ourselves, that when your stomach is completely empty…whether because of illness or malnutrition… one must take care when eating that first time. If you binge on a starving stomach, you’ll often get sick. Your body is so depleted, and stomach so tender, that you need to take little bites.
This is how I think about connecting with our emotionally hungry child. When a child is in disequilibrium and is simply “a mess,” our gestures of connection are hitting an empty stomach. Whatever she is going through is depleting her reserves and she needs those hugs so desperately….he needs that play time….she longs for that one-on-one date. But because he’s depleted, it can be rocky like that first meal.
I believe that even if the connection time you designed didn’t seem to go well because he was whining and hard to be around…and even ended in a tantrum….that doesn’t mean it didn’t count. It just means it hit an empty stomach…and he’ll need another snack soon.