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Have you ever had a distant child? He sees you, but he doesn’t really see you. He doesn’t want to hold your hand, or talk, or even be around you. He’d like to be left alone to his own life; to play with toys or video games alone in his room, to eat the meals you prepare for him in peace, to go to school or play with his friends without annoying parental input. How do you reach a distant child?
It’s not easy. Sometimes it seems that the simplest thing is just to go with the flow; let him do his own thing. That’s what he wants, anyway.
But parenting is all about connection; and your child, whatever mask he may be wearing, is still desperately hungry for you and for connection. Distance is your child’s response to feeling hurt; it’s a wall built to mask the pain a child feels when they think you broke the connection. As the parent, it’s up to break through the wall, heal the pain, and make your child’s attachment new and secure.
Here are some parenting strategies for developing connection in spite of the cold shoulder that little guy or girl is giving you:
- Get interested in the things that interest them
- Pay attention whenever they speak; even if it is just in monosyllables.
- Sit down with them at mealtimes; eating together is a wonderful way of developing unconscious camaraderie
- Go in the playroom and lie on the couch; just be there while your child plays.
- Go for walks together, just the two of you, to parks or playgrounds or just around the block.
- Ask them to help you make a batch of cookies or whip up a tray of brownies
- When your child is coloring and drawing, take a paper and draw your own picture on the table beside him.
Keep scolding to a minimum; your child needs connection, not correction. Even when your relationship is at it’s best, it’s important to remember one golden rule of parenting: for every reprimand, make sure you give your child at least three affirmations.
If your child has felt very hurt and ignored, you may have to use these strategies for a while before you get results. But keep at it! Parenting takes persistence, but the rewards are worth it. You’ll break down the walls, and there’s nothing better than having an attached child back in your arms again.
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