Village School

Parenting Toolbox

Restoring the Emotional Connection With Your Child

By Steve S., Parent

I do my absolute best as a parent to try and remain calm and not react in anger or frustration, but there are times when I fail at this. Sometimes in these moments I react in such a way that causes my daughter pain and suffering. Hurting my child is one of the more difficult situations for me to deal with, and I feel much guilt and shame when it happens. As much as we try not to, we are all very likely going to hurt our children at times. But I have learned that what is most important is to restore the emotional connection afterward with sincerity.

Following are a few key concepts that may help in the process of restoration:

Focus on the emotional connection
Restoration is primarily about repairing the relationship back to respect, love, appreciation, etc. Sometimes it is necessary to put the issue or problem (if there was one) aside for a while, and come back to that later. For example, if the issue was that my daughter did not pick up her items and I got angry and yelled at her, my repair would focus on my treatment of her — NOT the issue of her failing to pick up. Even if she made the initial “mistake” or misbehaved in some way, we can deal with that issue after we have restored our emotional connection. Combining the two often ends up diluting the repair.

Ask yourself the question, “Am I emotionally ready and willing to repair?” This requires an honest self-assessment as to your emotional state and willingness to engage in a meaningful way. If you are not at this point of readiness it usually does little good or causes even more harm to attempt, so it’s best to wait until you are ready. Your child must also be emotionally available, so assess their readiness as best you can. If they are still reactive you may have to wait until they are in a calmer emotional state.

In your mind and heart accept full ownership of your feelings, actions, and contribution to the situation, and this must be reflected in any words you use. If you use words that are blaming, lecturing or criticizing, it will likely derail or prolong the repair. When words are required, it is best to speak more about yourself and your experience and less about your child. This is not to say that you should blame or criticize yourself either. Self responsibility does not equal self blame. If an apology feels appropriate, which it is not always, be certain it is heartfelt–no hollow apologies! Be careful not to put a “but” in your apology. For example, “I am sorry that I reacted and got an angry tone with you, but I have told you many times not to leave your clothes on the floor.” You have just negated your apology with the “but.” The best way for your child to learn self responsibility is through your modeling.

Although this process of restoring the emotional connection with your child can be very challenging, I recommend continuing to make the effort until you believe it is repaired on both ends—yours and your child’s. Your child may not be able to articulate where they are in this process, but you may be able to gauge it through their demeanor and language.