All over the world, parents and non-parents alike have groaned with horror over what is happening to children and parents in Texas. The policy of separating a child from his parents violates something that lies at our very core—a child’s need to be close and connected to their parents. Most parents, while fighting back tears over the images and sounds on the television screen, have moved instinctively toward their children, to give them an extra hug, to reassure ourselves and them that we are safe and connected.
This connection is what nourishes and supports us both as children and as adults. It provides us with the framework for our future relationships. We seek it out, and when we can’t get the connection we need from our parents, we try to find it elsewhere, sometimes in unhealthy ways. As parents, we can sometimes become overwhelmed with the many tasks of parenting—we worry about our children’s health, their education, their friends and social life, their happiness and their future. We might spend a great deal of our time and energy ferrying children to activities, grinds, play dates. We have so many balls to juggle that getting through the day can often feel like the greatest achievement.
While many of these activities can be of great benefit to children, it is important to stop as often as possible and just be together. What our children really need is us—they need to feel close to us, they need to feel that we are there for them and that the connection will be there regardless of their grades, their achievements or their behaviour. Often, poor behaviour is how our children tell us that they are feeling unconnected so it is important to stay with them through this, whether it is a toddler having a tantrum or a teenager storming up to the room and slamming their door with the force of a tornado. They are telling us they need us, even if it doesn’t feel that way.
In addition to pulling closer to our own children, many of us have probably reached out during the past couple of weeks to try to help in whatever way we can—we may have sent letters of support or made donations. This is very important to do, but we can also look to the children in our own communities who are disconnected in some way—they may be living in direct provision and disconnected from a normal family life; they may be living in foster or residential care because their own parents, for a range of reasons, cannot care for them; they may be suffering from the loss of a parent through bereavement; they may be living in a violent or chaotic home. As we reflect on a global scale about the connection between parents and children, let’s try to support the need for connection and affection of all our children and support their parents as well.