A modern lifestyle brand redefining motherhood
Print Friendly and PDF

A friend told me her son couldn’t understand why a young child he knew had such a hard time being away from his mother while at school. The kindergartener would cling to her mother’s hand and in tears, voice protestations to being left behind.


My friend explained to her son that the 5-year old felt scared to be separated and left with people she didn’t know well. Her son, still confused, looked up at her and said, “But why doesn’t she just talk to her mom in her head?”

Astonished, my friend looked at her son and said, “Is that what you do?”

FEATURED VIDEO

He replied, “Yeah, I talk to you in my head all day, it helps me not feel so lonely and I don’t miss you as much.”

What every kid needs to take to school is an adult they hold onto psychologically. It is the sense they carry with them that there is someone to return home to, share their secrets with, and feel a sense of significance, belonging, and caring towards.

It underlies their capacity to be resilient, resourceful, and survive adversity. It allows them to face the challenges that school will present, from learning new subjects to persevering on tasks that are difficult. It will be critical to helping them deal with tricky peer groups, friends that turn into enemies, and bullies that are on every playground.

The beautiful design inherent to attachment is that we don’t have to be physically close to someone to feel connected; rather, we need to make sure we are firmly planted in their heart.

A strong relationship with at least one caring adult is the answer to resiliency in our kids—not skills they have to learn, having to act tough, or to ‘suck it up.’ We don’t need to work at preventing our kid’s from facing adversity but make sure they don’t face it alone.

Relationship is the natural home for the human heart.

The shielding effect of adult relationships

When a child has a strong relationship with an adult, their heart is shielded. The emotional system is protected from the wounding words and ways of others because a child cares more what their closest adult attachment thinks about them.

What kids say doesn’t hurt as much, it doesn’t feel as toxic, personal, nor as deep. The best inoculation against ‘mean’ kids is an adult who is holding onto a child. It is an adult who should offer a child an invitation for relationship that is gracious, generous, forgiving and unwavering.

While adult relationships shield kids’ emotional systems from the worst parts of their day, there will still be tears that may need to be shed. There will be emotions that are stirred up and need to be expressed as well as problems to be solved.

It is through relationship they are invited to rest from all that does not work so that they can embrace what might.

As a parent it feels like my homework each night involves gathering my kids and trying to take their pulse emotionally. I aim to help them make sense of their disappointments, hurts, as well as excitement and joy. Sometimes the stories and day’s events spill out of them spontaneously, or sometimes they need space, quiet, food, or to play before I can engage them.

At dinner my kids sometimes compete for airtime or can be mute, alerting me to the fact that a bedtime chat is likely the best place to connect. I care little how or when my children and I engage on the day’s event and only that we do. I keep my eyes on our relationship and an ear to their emotional world, vigilant to when I am needed most. I take faith that what my kids need most in facing the world outside are the relationships that anchor them to home.

How to cultivate strong relationships with kids

The recipe to cultivating a strong relationship with a child cannot be reduced to a set of instructions, directions, or mantras to hold onto. Relationships at their root, are an invitation that is offered to someone. It is an invitation to depend, to trust in, be guided by, and feel at home with someone.

We cannot dictate how relationships are forged and protected but we can be certain that it is the answer to the problem of facing separation and adversity.

The following strategies are key to building strong relationship with kids and protecting them from competing attachments such as peers or technological devices.

1. Collect their attention and engage their attachment instincts

We all seek connection—it is the primary driver in our attention system. The goal is to get there first with kids, meaning we need to collect their eyes, smile or a nod in agreement.

We need to engage them each morning by checking in, talking about the plans for the day, sharing a funny story—anything that puts you into relationship with them. Feeding them is a wonderful opportunity to collect their eyes and to invite them to depend on you.

2. Cultivate loyalty and a sense of belonging

When a child perceives an adult as being disloyal to them by not taking their side, understanding their perspective, or using what they care about against them through consequences or the use of time outs, the relationship can take a hit. When there is a sense that an adult is not for them, a separation is created in the relationship.

The challenge is there are times we cannot abide by a child’s actions or their words, when their behavior is clearly inappropriate, and we will need to act.

Finding our way through these situations while maintaining a sense of belonging and loyalty can be achieved by coming alongside the feelings and thoughts that have stirred a child up. While we make note of what isn’t okay, we can cue the child that we do understand and are there to help with what isn’t working for them.

It doesn’t mean we have to change what isn’t working, but we can give them some room to express it.

3. Family rituals, structure and routine

As kids face the separations that are part of life, they need to regularly return to things that ground them. Rituals and structure are these anchors, providing a regular hum and predictability to contact with their key relationships. From the morning routine that starts with a hello and ends with a goodbye to the dinner time that starts with a hello and ends with a goodnight—these are the rhythm’s that connect kids to time, place, and people. If separation is the problem, then holding onto to the connection that comes from rituals, structures, and routines is the answer.

The reality is we can’t perfect a child’s world or ensure they never face adversity. Venturing away from home is an important part of life. School often represents the first bold steps in this direction but we need not be alarmed by what awaits them. We just need to work at making sure they have our relationship to hold onto that will shield their heart from wounding.

Relationship is the home of the heart and when we understand this, we won’t ever fear that our kids will ever be too far away from us.

Originally published by Deborah MacNamara on macnamara.ca.

The very best of Motherly — delivered when you need it most.

Subscribe for inspiration, empowering articles and expert tips to rock your best #momlife.

Already a subscriber? Log in here.

As a former beauty editor, I pride myself in housing the best skincare products in my bathroom. Walk in and you're sure to be greeted with purifying masks, micellar water, retinol ceramide capsules and Vitamin C serums. What can I say? Old habits die hard. But when I had my son, I was hesitant to use products on him. I wanted to keep his baby-soft skin for as long as possible, without tainting it with harsh chemicals.

Eventually, I acquiesced and began using leading brands on his sensitive skin. I immediately regretted it. His skin became dry and itchy and regardless of what I used on him, it never seemed to get better. I found myself asking, "Why don't beauty brands care about baby skin as much as they care about adult skin?"

When I had my daughter in May, I knew I had to take a different approach for her skin. Instead of using popular brands that are loaded with petroleum and parabens, I opted for cleaner products. These days I'm all about skincare that contains super-fruits (like pomegranate sterols, which are brimming with antioxidants) and sulfate-free cleansers that contain glycolipids that won't over-dry her skin. And, so far, Pipette gets it right.

What's in it

At first glance, the collection of shampoo, wipes, balm, oil and lotion looks like your typical baby line—I swear cute colors and a clean look gets me everytime—but there's one major difference: All products are environmentally friendly and cruelty-free, with ingredients derived from plants or nontoxic synthetic sources. Also, at the core of Pipette's formula is squalane, which is basically a powerhouse moisturizing ingredient that babies make in utero that helps protect their skin for the first few hours after birth. And, thanks to research, we know that squalane isn't an irritant, and is best for those with sensitive skin. Finally, a brand really considered my baby's dry skin.

Off the bat, I was most interested in the baby balm because let's be honest, can you ever have too much protection down there? After applying, I noticed it quickly absorbed into her delicate skin. No rash. No irritation. No annoyed baby. Mama was happy. It's also worth noting there wasn't any white residue left on her bottom that usually requires several wipes to remove.


Why it's different

I love that Pipette doesn't smell like an artificial baby—you, know that powdery, musky note that never actually smells like a newborn. It's fragrance free, which means I can continue to smell my daughter's natural scent that's seriously out of this world. I also enjoy that the products are lightweight, making her skin (and my fingers) feel super smooth and soft even hours after application.

The bottom line

Caring for a baby's sensitive skin isn't easy. There's so much to think about, but Pipette makes it easier for mamas who don't want to compromise on safety or sustainability. I'm obsessed, and I plan to start using the entire collection on my toddler as well. What can I say, old habits indeed die hard.

This article was sponsored by Pipette. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Our Partners

Military families give up so much for their country, particularly when they have small children at home. Those of us who have never witnessed this kind of sacrifice first-hand could use a reminder of it once in a while, which is just one of the reasons we're so happy to see the beautiful photoshoot Mary Chevalier arranged for her husband's return home from Afghanistan.

The photoshoot was extra special because while James Chevalier was serving a nine-month deployment, Mary gave birth to their second son, Caspian.

Getting ready to meet Dad

"During the laboring and birthing process of Caspian, I was surrounded by family, but that did not fill the void of not having my husband by my side," Mary told InsideEdition.com. "He was able to video chat during the labor and birth, but for both of us, it was not enough."

While James had yet to meet Caspian, their 3-year-old son, Gage, missed his dad a whole lot, so this homecoming was going to be a big deal for him too. That's why Mary arranged for her wedding photographer, Brittany Watson, to be with them for their reunion in Atlanta.

Gage was so happy to see his Dad 

"[He] had no idea he was going to be getting to see his daddy that day," Watson wrote on Facebook. "The family met at the Southeastern Railway Museum for Gage to go on a special train ride... little did he know, he'd be doing it with daddy!"

Watson did a beautiful job capturing the high emotions of every single family member, from Gage's surprise, to the delight on baby Caspian's face. It's no wonder her Facebook post went viral last week.

"Caspian is natural, a very happy baby, but both James and I felt like Caspian knew who his father was almost immediately," Mary told Inside Edition. "He was easily comforted by me husband right off the bat and seemed to have an instant connection. It was very emotional."

The moment this dad had been waiting for 

If we're sobbing just looking at the photos, we can't even imagine what it was like in real life.

"We are all so blessed and take so much for granted," Watson wrote. "I cannot contain the joy I feel in my heart when I look at these images, and I hope you feel it too!"


You might also like:

News

During both of my pregnancies, I was under the care of an amazing midwife. Every time I went to her office for check-ups, I was mesmerized by the wall of photos participating in what may be the most painfully magical moment of a woman's life: giving birth. But there was a painting that always drew my attention: a woman dressed in orange, holding her newborn baby with a face that could be described as clueless. The line above the canvas read, "Now what?"

I felt like the woman in the painting as I kissed my mother goodbye when my daughter was born. She came from my native Colombia to stay with us for three months. When she left, I realized that my husband had been working as usual during those first 90 days of our new life. My baby was born on a Friday and on Monday he was back at the office. (No parental leave policy for him.)

FEATURED VIDEO

Now what? I thought. The quote "It takes a village to raise a child" suddenly started to hit home, literally.

After a few years in Miami, I had some friends, but it truly didn't feel like I had a village. Some were not mothers yet, most of them worked full-time and others didn't live close by. My nomad life left my best friends spread out in different places in the world. I found myself signing up for "mommy and me" classes in search of new mothers, immigrants like me, alone like me.

It seemed like a utopian dream to think about when my grandmothers became mothers. Both of them had 6 and 10 children and they were able to stay sane (or maybe not? I don't know). But at least they had family around—people cooking, offering help. There was a sense of community.

My mother and father grew up in "the village." Big families with so many children that the older siblings ended up taking care of the little ones; aunts were like second mothers and neighbors became family.

When I was about to give birth to my second baby, my sister had just had her baby girl back in Colombia. Once, she called me crying because her maternity leave was almost over. My parents live close to her, so that was a bonus. Hiring a nanny back there is more affordable. But even seeing the positive aspects of it, I wished I could have been there for her, to be each other's village.

The younger me didn't realize that when I took a plane to leave my country in search of new experiences 19 years ago, I was giving up the chance to have my loved ones close by when I became a mother. And when I say close by, I mean as in no planes involved.

It hasn't been easy, but after two kids and plenty of mommy and me classes and random conversations that became true connections, I can say I have a mini-village, a small collection of solitudes coming together to lean on each other. But for some reason, it doesn't truly feel like one of those described in the old books where women gathered to knit while breastfeeding and all the children become like siblings.

Life gets in the way, and everyone gets sucked into their own worlds. In the absence of a true village, we feel the pressure to be and do everything that once was done by a group of people. We often lose perspective of priorities because we are taking care of everything at the same time. Starting to feel sick causes anxiety and even fear because it means so many things need to happen in order for mom—especially if single—to lay down and recover while the children are taken care of. And when the children get sick, that could mean losing money for a working mother or father, because the truth is that most corporations are not designed to nurture families.

In the absence of that model of a village I long for, we tend to rely on social media to have a sense of community and feel supported. We may feel that since we are capable of doing so much—working and stay at home moms equally—perhaps we don't need help. Or quite the opposite: mom guilt kicks in and feelings of not being enough torment our night sleep. Depression and anxiety can enter the picture and just thinking about the amount of energy and time that takes to create true connections, we may often curl up in our little cocoon with our children and partners—if they are present—when they come home.

Now what? was my thought this week while driving back and forth to the pediatrician with my sick son. I can't get the virus, I have to be strong, my daughter can't get ill, my husband needs to be healthy for his work trip next week, we all need to be well for my son's fifth birthday. And so, it goes on. I texted one of my mom friends just to rant. She rants back because her son is also sick. She sent me a heart and an "I'm here if you need to talk."

I am grateful to have talked to her at that random postpartum circle when I first became a mother. She's a Latina immigrant like me and feels exactly like me. I will do it more, get out of my comfort zone and have—sometimes—awkward conversations so I can keep growing my own little village.

It may not look like the one I'd imagined, but still may allow me to be vulnerable even through a text message.

You might also like:

Life

Halloween is around the corner, but if you are like me you are still trying to figure out what to dress your family (especially the little ones), so here are some cute ideas inspired by famous characters. There's something for everyone—from cartoon lovers to ideas for the entire family!

Here are some adorable character costumes for your family:

You might also like:

Life
Motherly provides information of a general nature and is designed for educational purposes only. This site does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.Your use of the site indicates your agreement to be bound by our  Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Information on our advertising guidelines can be found here.