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  • Writer's pictureYana Bachynsky

Mother-child connection: do you see your child?

In the movie Avatar 2: The Way of Water, Lo’ak’s eyes swell with tears of joy upon hearing his father Jake Sully tell his son “I see you.” Lo’ak knew, of course, that his dad’s “I see you” didn’t refer to optical sight; rather, Lo’ak felt, perhaps for the first time, that his father understood him, valued him, connected with him. He felt seen.

Do you see your children?

Throughout pregnancy, moms concern themselves with purchasing baby items, getting the room ready, and doctor visits to ensure a safe birth experience for mother and child.

During these nine months, however, they have no way of knowing what their child will be like, except for their gender, perhaps. It’s impossible to know if they’ll be athletic, musical, artistic, bookworms, shy, outgoing, etc. But then suddenly, upon birth, the adventure of getting to know your child begins, the time when you start to discover just how unique your little bundle of joy is—and will become.

Sometimes moms are so concerned with pre-birth logistics that they are not actually ready to meet their baby when the day comes. It’s therefore important to start studying them and begin fostering that relationship early. Not only is your child unique, but your mother-child relationship is, too. There are countless how-to books on building your relationship with your spouse, but there are far fewer books that deal with relating to your children.

It’s all too easy to look at your child and try to find the ways they are like you or your spouse. While some similarities in temperament and personality might be expected due to heredity, prepare to be surprised—your child might be different from both of you. This could make it challenging to form a strong bond between you.

Your child is unique, and there is no one else in the universe like them. I have two young boys, and it shocks me how different they are from each other. I have to really tune in and focus on who they are. I call this “seeing” your children. It is only when you see them that you can respond to their way of perceiving the world and receiving love.

Ask yourself: Do I see my child? Do I understand him or her? Do I know my child’s needs and ways of relating to the world? As my child is growing up and developing language skills, am I communicating my feelings and modeling how to express a range of feelings? Such “mother-modeling” is an important component when it comes to developing a safe and secure attachment.

In my own spiritual life, my faith has led me to appreciate the unique gifts each person brings to the world. In Catholicism, such gifts are called charisms; in the world of psychology they may simply be called strengths. Zero in on these charisms/strengths and cultivate them in your child. This might involve some sacrifice for the mother, leading her to stretch herself to do things that her child enjoys that she does not.

At this point, you might be wondering: “Well, I had not considered all the above, so what should I do now to connect with my child?” I recommend starting with this simple step: the next time you are observing your child at play, ask yourself: what does he or she like? Is he or she more inclined towards physical activities, or is there a preference for more mental ones? Is my child artistic? Am I tuning into my child’s world and providing opportunities for the things that interest them and which would lead them to flourish?

This keen observation I am recommending should not, however, come at the cost of taking care of yourself as a mom. You can’t observe them all the time. For example, I am a highly sensitive person and oftentimes I need breaks from the noises and interactions with my children. I have noticed that when I am in tune with my own needs, I parent in a much more regulated way. For instance, on days that I was sleep-deprived or wasn’t able to get the physical exercise or connection that I needed for myself, I found myself interacting with my kids in a way that was not 100 percent congruent with the love that I have for them. Therefore, take care of yourself, too, so you can be more fully present with your kids in order to “see” them better.

I’d like to conclude with an invitation to action: write a journal listing your personal strengths and needs and reflect on whether those are being met in your daily life as a mother. As a second part of this exploration, I encourage you to journal your child’s strengths and needs. Finally, write down some steps you can take to encourage and foster your child’s strengths, while also balancing your own self-care needs.

If you want to further explore the topic of seeing your child, contact me for personal therapy and we’ll dive deep into these questions.

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