Does my kids love me?
by Elishia Dall on Nov 15, 2023
Does my kid love me?
At some point, maybe even before your little one was earthside, we’ve all asked ourselves this question as a parent. At some point your kid has also probably spit out some harsh words in a little or big fit of rage. Or maybe you feel you’re not the one they go to, need, or want. Leaving you with this bitter question in your mouth. It’s totally normal to wonder how your child feels about you and as they get older the question only gets harder to answer because they start to develop more obvious opinions, preferences, and feelings.
The concept of attachment is simple; it’s the bond between people and the strongest example is between children and their parents/care givers. Attachment is crucial in infancy, as it’s believed to set us up for life. It’s our first exposure to safety, which is not just found in where we live but who we live with and how they respond/interact with us. By simply being present and responding to your babies cues you start to reinforce that you are the person that they can depend on for safety and comfort, as well as meet their basic needs. By 6 – 7 months, you might notice your little one has a developed a bit of a preference and its usually to the person who’s with them the most. This does not mean they don’t love their other parent/caregiver it’s simply because they’ve had more experiences of their primary caregiver responding to their needs. It’s from 9+ months that babies also develop other strong connections to the other important and consistent people in their life.
This period can be difficult for the parent/caregiver who isn’t the ‘favourite’. Trying to interact and bond with someone who has clear preferences can be a real kick to the gut. One of our parents at The Parents Hood told us that he struggled to bond with his little girl because she would often cry when he held her or tried to play with her. He said it was “devastating to feel a sense of rejection from someone you love so wholeheartedly”. But he didn’t back down and he persisted with utilising ordinary moments to create opportunity for bonding. After work he would take over caring duties such as feeding, bathing, and playing until eventually his little girl began linking his care with comfort and safety.
Attachment with babies does not have to be rocket science and it’s important to not stress about making sure your little one is obsessed with you. Research shows that children establish these fundamental bonds and attachments through connection and interaction. By providing consistent care to meet their needs (feeding, cleaning and comforting) as well as setting aside the time to attentively interact with them which can be easily done through song, dance, playing and talking. Children with positive attachments have been shown to thrive later in life emotionally, physically, and socially.
But attachment doesn’t stop in infancy. I think it’s a common misconception and something that is overlooked that attachments are not linear our entire lives. We defined them as a bond or relationship between two people, something we all know changes with time and experiences. At some point in childhood or adolescence we discover are parents are human, largely because they make a ‘mistake’ that we get to witness and our view of them shifts. Whether it’s a big ‘mistake’ or a small one, we all go through a transition period where our bonds and relationships change with our parents/caregivers. Also what we need from our parents begins to shift and change as well. We become less reliant on them for everything and start to explore our independence. Adolescents are a great example of this transition in relationship.
They naturally begin to experiment and explore their ability to make choice’s and form their own opinions. They push boundaries and test greater hypothesis’ when interacting with the world which is often outside of our capacity to completely ensure their safety. This is absolutely terrifying to parents, because you’ve spent so long doing everything to keep them safe and now you need to let them make their own mistakes. The way parents respond during these transitions to the changing needs of their kids also impacts the attachment and relationship their children have with them. Research shows maintaining strict rules that don’t accommodate for teenagers growing need for independence has a great chance of resulting in mental health problems and risk-taking behaviour. But the balance between boundaries and freedom can be tricky to navigate as a parent.
I like the saying “let them do dangerous stuff safely”. As teenagers your still their safety, by providing this consistent space for them to be and feel safe in you reinforce an already established attachment. But you also need to give them the room to grow and explore to support their development in becoming functional adults. Because it is only from mistakes and experiences that we can learn. We recommend honest and open communication about your concerns, actively listening to what’s going on for them, compromising where appropriate, setting clear expectation and boundaries when needed and getting them to think with you about any choices they are wanting to make. Teenagers aren’t great at future planning to simply asking the how, what, when, where why is a great conversational piece to teach them how to begin thinking about the possible outcomes of their actions.
Yes, there may be times where you need to put your foot down and you get a door slammed in your face, the odd “I hate you”. But I’ve worked with a lot of teenagers whose parents really missed the mark and did things I would consider hard to forgive. Yet, when I sat down to really speak to them about their parents the one thing, I saw clearly was a love that they had for their parents even when they couldn’t understand their actions. Kids love their parents even when it doesn’t make sense. But it’s with a positive attachment we make a foundation for our kids to thrive. Establishing that bond early one and reinforcing it as they grow solidifies a foundation for your child to grow and experience the world. This is the true long-term effect of early positive attachment.
So in short, yes your kid loves you. If your struggling with the relationship between you take a step back, a deep breath and revaluate what’s working and not working. Listen to what your kid is trying to tell you, look at what transition/developmental season their at in their life, ask yourself what you needed from your parents at that age and as always how can you meet their current needs and allow them space to grow.