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Creating A Safe Haven

For Our Children:

Raising a daughter with special needs, I have learned, it’s not about what is seen, but what is unseen that matters…the heart. The Bible tells us to guard our heart for it is the well-spring of life. As parents, it is essential that we do what we can to protect their hearts, for everything else in their life will be affected. We can do this through attachment.

Attachment is something that happens when two people are intrinsically together and when their value and worth are not at stake. When attachment occurs they know they are loved, valued and appreciated and are better able to navigate the difficulty of the world around them. Children with attachment deficiancies, however, suffer more with depression and anxiety and struggle to thrive. While our bodies are made to adapt, we do so, but suffer greatly through the process.

The theory of attachment was first recognized during World War II in the orphanages. These children, left without parents, were given shelter, food and clothing and yet labored a great deal, unable to flourish. As research began among the orphans, it was found that the children lacked the essential needs of positive human contact and playful interaction. Two main elements necessary for brain development as well as fostering an environment of safety and security needed for them to bloom.

Being that I suffered greatly during the early years to be the mom I wanted to be, because of my own emotional wounds and the tragedy our family had endured, I was unable to give my children these things. Though present and doing what I could to make sure their needs were met, I struggled to give them the one on one time and playful interaction they desperately needed to thrive.

As a result, both of my girls have suffered from attachment wounds.

Our oldest daughter, who shares her emotions openly has taught us that often-times she just needs to be held in the moments when her emotions overwhelm her. Doing so, we’ve learned that she finds a great amount of comfort and is soothed in her moments of fear or sadness. Our youngest, however, will put on her “I’m tough” fig leaf when she is not receiving the time and care she needs to feel safe and secure. Her attitude will come across as bossy and mean, but underneath the layers of her “anger” is a frightened little girl that simply wants and desires to be shown she is worth our time and attention. Both girls, when acting out, are often functioning out of a very tiny part of the brain known as the amygdala. The amygdala is the part of the brain that holds the primitive memories of their past. Unable to function from the prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain that allows us to cognitively process thoughts, behaviors, and emotions), in these moments of fear, they react – instantaneously – from the amygdala. As a result, we see behaviors that mimic manipulation and control as our kids are doing what they can to “protect” themselves in these moments of insecurity.

In a different place today, than I was when my girls were toddlers, I am keenly aware of their attachment ques. I’ve learned, through the struggle, that my oldest needs more assurance to feel safe and my youngest needs more time. When the two of them have these things, they are better able to function, less afriad, and significantly more secure.

For Our Spouses:

Throughout the duration of my own story, I’ve learned that attachment deficiencies are not just found amongst our kids. They are also very prevalent in our marriages as well. Our spouses come to us with their own needs for love and affection. Often times, carrying the wounds of their past, they can appear demanding and self-centered. While it is easy to look at each other and say, “You are the problem,” the truth is neither party chose the wounds bestowed on them. They, instead, were a by-product of the fallen and deprived world we live in and underneath it all is a fear that each won’t receive the love we each deserve.

For my husband and I, seeing the wounds has been difficult. Truthfully, it has taken counseling along with Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), a technique taught through the book, Hold Me Tight, to recognize the reality that we were not each others enemy, the wounds inflicted on us, however were. Today, my husband and I are working through the struggle and learning, once again, how to love each other well. For both of us, it requires that we lay down our own struggles and elevate our partner’s. Recognizing that in doing so, we have the ability to build a long, lasting, secure relationship, that communicates love. Understanding that we are both, often times, function out of the primitive parts of our brains (our amygdala), we have the ability to disarm that fear and work toward creating an environment where love can grow.

Doing this for our spouses is essential when we look at the whole family dynamic. For if we don’t, the division among us grows, the security disentegrates, and the core of our families will fall apart. The Bible tells us that where two or more are gathered in His name, that He, too, will be there. Viewing that as truth, I’m ready to let down my guard, build up my husband’s security (knowing He’s not the enemy) and watch life grow in our little family of four. I hope you’ll join me in uniting with your husbands and watch as Jesus changes the dynamics of our homes. It won’t happen over night, but I believe it will happen.

I will be sharing from my own life experiences, ideas for connecting to our children and spouses through the Loving Our Family tab on the main menu as well as some of the struggles and “ah-ha” moments I have along the way. Be sure to check back often and sign up to receive our new posts in your email box (found on the side-bar) and follow my pins on Pinterest so you can stay up-to-date on tips, tricks, and ideas for loving your family intentionally!

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