Learning to let go... and be healthy
There are stages in infancy and early childhood when children have trouble letting go of their primary caregiver. It's a normal part of the developmental process and a sign that the child is doing well. He or she is attached to a loving caretaker. Sometimes the caretaker has a hard time letting go of the child and allowing the child to have the normal and necessary developmental experiences of coping with anxiety, learning self-soothing, and internalizing the constancy of the caretaker who always returns. When this occurs, the parent may be so stressed by his or her own sense of insecurity as a parent that they are unable to allow the child these critical opportunities for development. If the parent is unable to address his or own anxiety in a healthy way, the child may end up with disturbed attachment relationships which sets the child up for a lifetime of challenges and unhealthy relationships.
Here is an example of one such mother's struggles:
I remember when my daughter was little that I just wanted to go to the grocery store without her being there so I could make it a fast trip. You know in and out in 10-15 minutes versus taking her with me, getting her out of the car seat, putting her into the shopping cart and being distracted while I shop and end up at the store for an hour.
But she would cry if I were to leave her at home with her dad or her sister. So I devised a plan that I would sneak out of the house. I would put my shoes on the front porch when she wasn't looking and then later I would put my purse on the front porch and then finally when she was in the other room enjoying her time I would sneak out and jump in my car and run to the store to get the few things I needed and come right back. It worked on some occasions, but there were those times that she would catch me right when I was walking out to the car and she would press herself against the front screen door and cry out with desperation "MOMMY!!!" I would feel so guilty that I would reluctantly go back in the house and bring her with me only to come home an hour later from my shopping trip.
In reality she would have been fine. She wasn't in any harms way and it would have been good for me to have those few minutes alone, some quality me time, if only for 15 minutes. Problem is this did not end at the toddler age but continued on until preschool. Wherein I found myself staying at the school volunteering instead of going home because I was so worried that her feelings would be hurt if I left.
Okay so how does this apply to you? And how does it apply to Hannah's House and our work with parents and children? For you moms and dads of young toddlers or even preschool-age children you may find it hard to encourage your child to go in to a visit or exchange when they appear a little reluctant to leave you. Please trust our staff that, much like a preschool teacher, have the best interest of your child at heart.
Most of the time when we have a fussy reluctant child who appears to be afraid to go with the staff -- and there is an encouraging parent who tells them it's okay, I will be right back, I'll see you in a little bit, I love you -- that child appears reassured and once they see the other parent they are fine. The child has a good time and when they return they're happy and are able to learn to trust that mommy or daddy will return like they said they would. This is healthy parenting and helps a child grow up to be healthy too.
The research on shared parenting is compelling. Even when high conflict is taken into account, children do far better when they have the love and care to both parents, than children who lose a parent during a family breakup. If you are having a hard time allowing your child to have a relationship with your coparent, consider taking a coparenting class where you can learn about the negative effects on children when parents are unable to share the child.
Our Family Resource Center offers a FREE Coparenting Class once a month. In July, we will be meeting from 10 am - 12 pm in our Community Room (100D behind the building) on July 15. You will receive a certificate of attendance. Email FRCHHSD@gmail.com today to reserve a spot. Seating is limited.