Parenting and Partnering: I Hope You Dance

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10471274_679712472105366_74408688332296241_nDo you dance? I do, although not as well as my husband. I can work through and memorize the steps and patterns, but the fluidity takes some time. In fact, it took me years to learn the true art of partnering with him—the essential non-verbal cues necessary for a smooth connection and easy transitions between us.

Parenting your child is akin to the art of partnering in dance, the nonverbal lead-follow connection vital for social dancing. Your dance with your child is sacred. It is a two-way process of building and maintaining attachment, trust, and a safe space.

When I refer to following, I mean mindfully interpreting what your child indicates she needs (her lead). You choose to respond, mindfully, clearly, building a connection between you and your child.

The dance of attachment can be challenging. Your child has had her birth attachment severed. She has a visceral awareness of her disconnection, and this is the lens through which she attaches to you.

She needs to attach. She needs you.

Your goal is to meet all of her needs.

Perhaps you know her full story. Perhaps you have only pieces. The effort you put forth to attach with your child is dependent upon her style of attachment, history, and temperament.

How can you mindfully move forward while also respecting the distance your child indicates she needs? Be open to adapting your approach.

Observe. Does she lean in or look away?

Listen. Are her sounds joyful, sad, or angry?

Play. What do you notice?

One step forward, two steps back.

Rest. Regroup. Patience. Try again.

Dancing is a process. Establishing a rhythm takes time.

Your child will push away, even as she attaches and becomes securely attached. This is normal. She will seek her independence as she moves into adolescence, but return to you, when she needs you. She seeks the rhythm of dancing with you.

The dance of attachment is life-long. Here are some ideas for improving the dance of attachment with your child:

  • Encourage your child to be a child. Let her know you are available if she needs you.
  • Play. Playing with your child builds social and development skills. Think simple, like a board game.
  • Do activities together, such as creating a craft or cooking.
  • Take a long walk in a beautiful setting. Allow for silence, teaching your child that there can be tranquility in the quiet.
  • Establish a routine. This gives your child a sense of control and allows her to begin developing trust, which is necessary for attachment.
  • Establish permanency. Separate acting-out from your message, “I love you, but I don’t like your behavior.”
  • Give your child emotional and physical space. She needs to have room to be who she is, and to explore herself and her environment. Privacy is important. Giving her space declares, “I trust you.”
  • Take family photos with him, and frame them. Put the photos in her room and around the house, where she and others will see them. The photos reinforce, “I claim you!” The frames represent extra care and being valued.

For Discussion:

What tips can you share that have worked for you and your child? What patterns have you noticed with your child? How have you adapted to her needs? How has observing your child made you better at partnering?

~ Photo: Izzy Hunter

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

gayle swift June 22, 2016 at 9:00 pm

Well said. As parents it is up to us to be aware and intentional as we engage in the dance of attachment.

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Judy June 23, 2016 at 4:03 pm

We need to be mindful of the dance of attachment, especially when our kiddos are dealing with the tough stuff.

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