This is the second in a series every Thursday giving some more information on the Power to Parent course by Dr. Gordeon Neufeld. If you missed the first one, I suggest searching for it and reading it before this. As I said in the first post, I highly recommend taking the full course to get a bigger picture of the material and reading Dr. Neufeld's book Hold Onto Your Kids.
The second session had me in tears before I was barely out the door to my van. It touched something deep in my heart, and helped me connect to my childlike vulnerability in an entirely new way. He talked about psychological intimacy, and that being known equals being seen and heard for who you are. The more attached you are to someone, the deeper the loyalty, and loyalty is felt with the heart, not the head. To be loyal means to take the same side as.
He described attachment as happening through the senses, and it is a process which is below the surface (meaning it can't be seen). Different things are meant to happen for children at different ages in order for these roots to grow and take root in the child. At birth, the child attaches through the five senses, then at age two through sameness, age three belonging and loyalty, age four significance (being valued and mattering), age five love, and age six being known.
Attachment involves vulnerability. When you give your heart away, you risk it being broken. Our vulnerability lies in our emotions. Some kids are more sensitive than others, and the brain is designed to tune out what hurts you repeatedly as a protective measure. It's supposed to be a situational thing, but if it happens enough, you become stuck in your development and don't progress in these levels of vulnerability. (As a side note, man-oh-man, did that happen to me, and I couldn't give my kids permission to be vulnerable until I found my vulnerability again and embraced it).
We tend to think in our culture that our kids are too attached when they have separation anxiety, but it's the opposite. They aren't attached enough. They don't feel secure and that's why they stick like velcro. Bedtime can be a problem for many kids because they lose connection when they go to sleep. We need to increase contact and closeness and not withdraw it. Forcing separation is not the answer. It's deepening the attachment.
We need to make it easy for our children to become deeply attached to us. I was afraid of this before last fall, particularly with William. His sensitivity and vulnerability made me shy away because I found it so hard to embrace my own. When my counselor helped me to break down those defenses, and see vulnerability as a strength and not a weakness, I could turn to my small son and work on those roots of belonging and loyalty, significance and being known. The love was always there, and the sameness and the senses, but I needed these loftier things to be accessible inside of me so I could offer them to my children.
Feeling these losses and wounds deeply offers the chance to heal from them and accept sensitivity and vulnerability in our children and others. We can all heal at any time. Dr. Neufeld said that relationships are forever. If you were dying, you would attach as much as you could to those you love, so that you would matter to each other forever. That thought touched my heart, and gave me fresh eyes to view my significant relationships through.