I am writing this text because I would like to share with you something that allowed me to find my own parental path. Nowadays, the flood of advice and recommendations directed to parents might be overwhelming. Seeking answers to doubts that we have, we can come across so many, often contradictory information, that instead of making us feeling more confident, leave us with a sense of greater confusion. For me, the solution turned out to be “trust” and I want to tell you more about it.
I will start with children. I am convinced that trust is a skill we are born with. From the first moments of their lives, our children show confidence in us and in themselves.
Children trust what they feel and what their body tells them. They trust us, adults that we want to take care of them, that we are on their side, that we want them to be healthy, safe and happy. From the first moments of their life, they trust that if they will signal their needs to us, we will help them to satisfy them.
I think that the youngest children, through their crying, shouting, smiling and having a good night’s sleep, can show us the trust they place in us. Later, the repertoire of behaviors that can show the child’s trust can be significantly expanded.
And do we, parents, know how to trust ourselves and our children?
Do we trust that our children are experts on their body? In my opinion, it’s easier for us to trust small babies than older children in this matter. After birth, when we get to know a new family member, our child, we are sensitive to the signals that it sends us. It is easier for us to believe that if it cries, it feels some discomfort, it needs something to feel calmer. I believe that children, along with their development, do not lose the competence to stay in contact with their body. They know very well when they are hungry and when they are full when they are cold and when they are too hot. Children know well when they want to be caressed, cuddled, kissed, and when they don’t feel good about it. As parents, we are observers of what the child receives with the help of his body.
I noticed that over time, it is getting more difficult for us to believe in the mentioned competences of the child. It is more difficult for us to trust when it signals that it is already full, it feels too hot or is afraid of something.
However, children repeatedly give us a chance to regain the confidence. In many different ways (besides speaking) they show us that something is crossing their boundaries. In the food area, for example, they can turn their head away from the dish that we suggest to them or spit out what we put in their mouth.
Apart from trusting in the child’s competences, the problem of trust in his good intentions may also appear over time. Difficulty in trust regarding the will to cooperate with us. In my opinion, it usually happens around the second birthday of our offspring. Children then enter the stage, which is often called the “two-year rebellion”. However, I believe that this name does not support us in building a close relationship with the child. I prefer to think about this stage in my child’s development as the time when it starts to see that it is a separate being.
It is a time when it discovers autonomy and begins to learn to care for a sense of freedom. Around 2 years of age a child starts the long way to achieve the ability to make its own decisions, taking care of their boundaries, expressing their thoughts in a way that does not hurt others.
When I think about this stage in my child’s life, it is easier for me to trust that his behavior is not aimed at me.
It is easier for me to trust that the child has not yet acquired the skills that are available to adults and takes care of itself in the way that is within reach. It is easier for me to trust in his good intentions.
Confidence in the child’s competences and good intentions can help us in the “parental chill”. I believe that such trust allows us to let go of many things. We can let go of being an expert on the child’s body, we can let go of worrying, for example, that the child ate too little. We have a chance to see that we can be wrong as parents and we may not know everything. We can also give ourselves space to see the child’s perspective.
What else can support us in trusting the child?
I think it is extremely helpful to get familiar with the knowledge related to the child’s development. Knowledge of developmental stages can turn many frustrating or worrying behaviors of the child into something characteristic and common in this particular age. In my experience, only the awareness that the behavior of the child is caused by the development, reduces the tension that parents experience. Often, our expectations towards children also decrease, because more or less we know what is within their reach in a given age.
And what about the trust we have for ourselves?
Do we see the signals that our body sends us? What are we doing with these signals? When we realize that we are tired, what is our next step? Do we rest, or do we choose to clean the apartment or finish the project for work? Are you your own best friend? And what about the area of our good intentions? Do we see them at home? What are my intentions when I ask my child for something?
In my opinion, trusting yourself is conducive to taking care of yourself. Caring for basic matters such as satisfying hunger, thirst, taking care of proper rest. However, taking care of yourself does not take place only at the level of the body. Our mind also has its needs.
It seems to me that contact with other adults is very important in parenting. A contact that is regular and not only in times of crisis. Contact with people who can empathize with us can be a fuel that will help us endure difficult times. Such contact can also charge us with energy that will allow us to bloom.
The trust that we give ourselves can also be our ally in building balance in the family. When we will trust, that we are important, it will be easier for us to see that every family member is just as important. Despite the fact that I wrote more about the relationship with the child than about the world of adults, I think that the child does not have to be put in the center to feel really important.
I only described a small part of how trust can affect our parental reality. This above article is not meant to show you the only right way. I hope that I showed you the area that you may want to check with your beliefs and own experience. Maybe it will bring some inspiration to look deeper into yourself and your children. To think about what really stands behind your choices. Is there any trust there?
Author: Alfreda Lipińska – a family scientist, devoted to conducting meetings for parents which aim at broadening the knowledge about children development and Attachment Parenting. She regularly enhances her knowledge by taking part in trainings and workshops about Attachment Parenting and NVC. Privately – a happy wife and mother of a 6 year old boy. She is active on Facebook where she runs the “Przestrzeń rodzica” (Parent’s space) blog.