Last week, I wrote about inspirations and notions that recently arose for me as I listened to a song by the Black-Eyed Peas, Where Is the Love? This week, I found myself still longing to hear the lyrics in that song where the singer is asking his mother and father to give him guidance about the pain that he sees in the world around him.
As a mother and a family therapist in Washington DC and nearby Bethesda, I was reminded of the families who I work with that are seeking to understand how the communication in their family has turned sour and how the love that they have for each other seems to be hidden or stashed away. Esther Perel (estherperel.com) notes that “romance is blasted by the realities of family life.” Even under the best of circumstances, stress can wear down individual family members, which can leave kids and parents feeling depleted and alone. Smaller moments of stress or trauma can pile onto a family or an individual member and take its toll–sometimes these “little traumas” are manageable and resolved yet still make a mark. Examples might include social estrangement from friends, a loss of a family pet, a sudden move or disruption for the family, etc. This explanation doesn’t take into account when a family experiences a major trauma, which I often called a “Big T Trauma”, such as a completed suicide, a sexual assault of a child, a high conflict divorce, or a cancer diagnosis, etc.
The song asks, ”What’s wrong with the world..?”
Often, when I watch the news or turn to choose a show on Netflix, I ask myself similar questions. Why do TV producers air shows that only show pain and trauma? And, why are we so compelled to watch those shows? What are we doing in our families to protect and support our children in dealing with these big world problems?
While we can’t shut out the world, we can try to build systems to help our children experience the love and support that is available to them. We CAN place primary attention to our marriages and our intimate connections–this is one way that we can inoculate our children from some of the pain in the outside world. Esther Perel asserts that parents can get lost sometimes when they no longer focus on each other as intimate partners and they over-focus on their children as a means for making up for what they may be missing in their relationship with their spouse. An important suggestion is to be sure to nurture the relationship that you have with your partner–it is the fountain of support that your children draw from. If you don’t have a partner, build an alternate support system and fill up that support for yourself. Here are some ideas:
Connect with Your Community
Whether it is with your spouse, through a parenting group, or in a caring church community, or a close neighborhood group, we can connect with them regularly.
Allow Room for Growth
We also can give our children attention without helicoptering or overlooking their accomplishments and emotional needs. Children need our attention, but they require “just enough” attention to thrive, to learn and to grow, and really not much more.
Support Your Partner
We can show our children MORE LOVE in the home when we first start with each other as parents. EFT [Emotionally Focused Therapy] research suggests that healing a spousal relationship is one of the primary ways that parents can work on their parenting and help their children. We transmit our love through our parenting acts and through our children’s experience of our committed relationship. So take a moment to stop being such a fantastic parent, and turn some romance or loving attention toward your spouse or your parenting partner.
Next week, I will write about pursuing and sustaining love within our communities in, Where Is The Love? In Our Divided Communities [Part III].