Even though we let our children experience sadness and disappointment,
A child needs to be held and comforted when vulnerable.
As parents, we need to convey the attitude:
You can depend on me to respond when you need me.
When a child is hurt, afraid or worried a parent needs to reassure them. We can’t always be there immediately but the child needs to feel confident we will answer their calls of distress. Dr. Sue Johnson says, “If you know your loved one is there and will come when you call, you are more confident of your worth and value” (Johnson, 2008).
Connection is Hardwired
Harry Harlow, a psychologist at the University of Wisconsin, designed an experiment where young monkeys were separated from their mothers at birth. The isolated baby monkeys were so eager for connection that if given the choice between a “mother” made out of wire who dispensed food and a soft-cloth mother without food, they would choose the squashy rag mother almost every time (Johnson). The baby monkeys preferred connection to food.
Harlow’s monkey experiments illustrated, we are hard wired for attachment; if our emotional needs are not met in childhood, we will become socially crippled adults.
A Father Comforts His Lost Son
Clyn was a seven-year old boy living on a large Idaho farm near the Teton River. It was his job to round up the cows at milking time. Because the cows pastured in a field bordered by the occasionally dangerous Teton River, the strict rule in his home was that during the spring flood season the children were to go after any cows that ventured across the river. They were always to return home and seek help.
One Saturday, the family was promised a night at the movies, if their chores were done on time. Clyn eagerly went to fetch the cows. When he arrived at the pasture, the cows had crossed the river and the river was in high flood stage. Knowing his night at the movies was in jeopardy, he decided to go after the cows himself, even though he had been warned many times never to do so.
As the seven-year-old urged his old horse, down into the cold, swift stream, the horse’s head barely cleared the water. When they finally climbed the other bank, Clyn realized his life had been in serious danger and that he had done a terrible thing—knowingly disobeyed father. He felt he couldn’t face his father unless he brought the cows home safely. But it was already dusk, and Clyn didn’t know for sure where he was.
Despair overwhelmed the wet, cold young boy who was lost and afraid. Clyn began to cry and pray for help. He didn’t feel he deserved rescue because he had been disobedient but he asked anyway. Just when he was about to despair, he heard a familiar voice.
“Son, I’ve been looking for you.” In the darkness he recognized the voice of his father and he ran to outstretched arms. His dad held him tightly, then said gently, “I was worried. I’m glad I found you.”
Clyn’s father’s actions demonstrated that he cared about his son’s safety more than he cared about family rules and that he would protect Clyn from danger.
There are soothing, reassuring traditions we can build into our family so our children know we are there for them.
Comforting rituals for children:
*Letter writing and leaving notes for each other
*Religious rituals such as praying and attending church
*Watching uplifting entertainment together.
*Saying hello and listening about the highs and lows of their day
*Reading a book together
*Develop a hobby you do together
*Finding someone in need and working together to serve and help
*Kissing, hugging and saying, “I love you” regularly
- Good parenting is a balancing act; we can’t rescue them from the consequences of their choices yet we need to be present and convey empathy and nurturing. Then we have happy kids, happy parents.
Camille Curtis Foster 801.472.7134/ firstname.lastname@example.org
See other posts of self-esteem in children:
Johnson, Sue. (2008) . Hold me tight, seven conversations for a lifetime of love. New York: Little Brown & Company.
Jeffrey R. Holland, https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2008/10/the-ministry-of-angels?lang=eng