Every parent/child relationship has moments of rupture; moments when the child is screaming or the adult is yelling, when all the emotions have bubbled up and are spilling out in a frothing mass of fury. Sometimes it may be quieter, with everybody seething inwardly, which may look better from the outside, but the disconnection is still there.
Rupture is inevitable. Its a part of any relationship. Some relationships have more of these moments than others, of course, but everyone feels their well run dry from time to time.
Then comes the guilt and the shame… the blame and the sorrow.
Obviously its always good to try and stop these ruptures from happening wherever possible – working on ourselves as parents, healing past trauma and finding ways to cope with our emotional loads and learning how to support our children with their own emotions so we can help them regulate better; its all very important, but even then these moments will happen… so, what can we do?
Well, after rupture comes repair.
Without Repair, nothing has really been fixed and all that upset and hurt is still there, right beneath the surface.
This article from Psychology today explains Rupture and Repair really well
Repair - A how to guide...
If we were the ones who ‘lost it’ then this is where we can model a real apology. A real apology doesn’t just mean just saying the word “Sorry”. It involves really taking responsibility for what happened. “I’m sorry that I was so grumpy. I was feeling overwhelmed because I have a lot to do today. It is not ok that I spoke to you that way.”
If it was the child having a hard time, we can model graciousness, this means that you calmly and lovingly make the move to repair the connection, even without an apology. As a parent it is up to us to model being gracious, to model not holding grudges and to model letting things go.
Finally, we need to reconnect in order to really repair. We do this through:
Empathy – Show them you understand what happened, without blame or shame. “Its so hard feeling so overwhelmed, isn’t it? I feel that way too sometimes!”
Closeness – Sometimes when they are at their worst, what they really need is for us to love them the most. Hold your arms wide and offer a cuddle, ask if they would like to sit with you for a while.
Having them melt into your arms as they release that anger is a rather amazing thing.
Meeting their needs – Rupture often stems from having unmet needs. We’ve all heard people say ‘They must be tired’ when it comes to children, and they’re not wrong. A child who is hungry, over or under stimulated, tired, bored, etc, is far more likely to have these moments. Meeting their need is a great way to reconnect, especially if we take our time and do it with love. It shows them that we are here and that we care. Its nurturing at its finest.
Play – There is no more powerful way to reconnect with your child than through fun and laughter, as Lawrence J. Cohen, author of Playful Parenting says “Play is also a way to be close and, even more important, a way to reconnect after the closeness has been severed. Chimpanzees like to tickle one another’s palms, especially after they have had a fight. Thus, the second purpose of play serves our incredible – almost bottomless – need for attachment and affection and closeness.”
Giving space – This doesn’t mean we leave them with their big feelings, but if they aren’t ready to move on then we need to respect that they may need a little more time. This can sometimes mean sitting close or assuring them you’re there when they are ready. This is especially important with older children.
Asking – Imagine a time when you were feeling really overwhelmed and frustrated. Now imagine hearing the words “Hey, you seem angry and upset right now. What can I do to help you feel better?” It would be pretty amazing, right? Do this for your child.
Remember, rupture is inevitable, but it isn’t the be all and end all… there is always the opportunity to repair and you and your child’s relationship will be stronger for it.