We know that something that’s elastic like a rubber band will, when stretched, return back to its normal state afterward. That is the very nature of being elastic, the tendency to return to a normal state of being. But what does that have to do with my child you may ask (?).
A securely attached child would feel uneasy and tend to seek to return to normal, having had a conflict with their parent, such as a reprimand or correction, a difference of opinion, a blow-up over a misunderstanding or disappointment over unmet or misplaced expectations perhaps. This child might initiate an apology or “get over” a sour attitude and re-join family activities after a short time of sulking and re-grouping. They may approach the parent for comfort and get assurance that the parent-child relationship is still intact.
The actual term is to “re-attune”. I think of a piano out of tune that needs to be tuned in order to have the keys sound the correct notes when played, so the music is pleasant to the ear.
But if our children are NOT securely attached, they may not re-attune very readily and may tend instead to stay stuck in an out-of-tune position. An ingrained fear of adults can keep them from seeking out reconnection like a limp rubber band that’s lost its elasticity.
“As our children are often fearful of adults and may have had negative experiences, it is almost impossible for them to ‘re-attune” to the parent following an incident” says Sarah Naish in The A-Z of Therapeutic Parenting: Strategies and Solutions.
“A child who is fearful of adults, or overwhelmed with shame, is entirely unable to make the first move and will remain stuck, defensive and sad.”
This causes me to pause and recognize what big steps there have been for a couple of my children to initiate apologies recently, and to recognize that their steps of reconnecting, though they may look minor on the outside, are really so huge for them!
Recognizing this, I’d love to grab them up and bear hug them. For one it would be ok perhaps – – except he’s asleep now and would jump out of his skin if startled! For the other, it would push her away. Note to self: Tread lightly, mama – – I am still learning!
I have to keep telling myself, it’s not about me. It really isn’t. It’s not about you, either. They may not even understand it either. But sometimes we may represent all the adults that have ever hurt them previously, and their brains just cannot – – in that moment – – discern that we are safe.
But we can wait. We can wait until their brains catch up and catch on. Because that’s what we do as parents who love our children even when it’s hard. Even when they don’t understand it or don’t believe it.
And with God, we can be patient and wait it out because we know that God is working it all out for good.
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to his purpose” Romans 8:28
Comment and let me know if this is something that you deal with in your family. I’d love to hear any tips you have for reconnecting and keeping the door of invitation open to re-attuning with your children.