This week before Mother’s Day we are examining what characteristics make a healthy mother. Most moms want to do their best to raise happy well- adjusted children. We are often blamed for the troubles of our children by the media, psychological theories (thanks Freud) and most of all, other mothers. The best way to inoculate our families from the harmful effects of the universe is attunement. No I am not talking about barber shop style acapella singing groups (thank goodness), but really connecting with, or being in tune with your child. Attunement is being aware of, and responding to your child. This is not an easy task. Mothers are famous for being pulled in a myriad of different directions, so staying attuned with your child takes planning and effort.
Keep your eye on the prize: Attunement
Understand that you will be distracted immediately. During pregnancy, mothers are immediately attacked by other mothers with “well meaning” questions like, “you eat gluten while gestating?”, or or “ breast or bottle?” or “stay at home or return to work?” or “will you deliver naturally, silently, in the woods and plant the placenta as fertilizer, or in a cold hard hospital bed with an epidural that will make your baby thinks it’s a rhinoceros for the first five years of its life?” It seems that you have to choose a side or all will be lost. It seems impossible that you can trust yourself and your child to become attuned to be able to decide these big decisions for yourself! Some of the star performers in the judgey child rearing world make Texas cheerleading tryouts look welcoming. These mothers have a sort of gravitational pull, like a black hole, and they will suck your intelligent confident self into the abyss never to be seen or heard from again. They will try to make you question your every move from choice of prenatal vitamins to your relationship with your grandchildren. The mommy wars are fought long and hard, but they are not winnable wars. A healthy mom knows her prize is not the admiration of other moms, but a happy well-adjusted child. Avoiding the mommy war is the only way to win it.
When you are attuned with your child, you will not need other mothers to tell you what is right for your child. You will know by communicating with your child through eye contact, conversation, gentle touch, quality time and simply being engaged. This is where you recognize facial expressions and gestures and respond to the needs of the child. That is, as long, as you put down the other distractions. Yes, that means your smart phone, portable e reader, lap top or other form of cocaine for the mind that we drift toward when we have five seconds of free time. You child knows when she is talking to you and your reply is “uh huh, uh huh, mmmmmm, just one second…” that you are not really attuned with them. They know because they perfected the move. Park the gadgets for dinner time, or car time, or time when you could actually have a discussion with your child instead of trolling their Facebook page to see what is going on.
When your child is young and has limited vocabulary, getting down on the floor and playing with your child creates wonderful attunement. Play along with your child (not sit by the child and read while he plays, that does not count). Ask your child about the play, ask how they want you to play, reflect what you see them doing while they play. This kind of activity allows children to know you are engaged in what they are doing and you find them interesting. Sometime children will appear to be disinterested in attunement. This is a developmentally appropriate response in tween to teenage years. It is also a ruse designed to throw you off course. The thing about tweens and teens is that they still crave your interest and attention. Now, they may not crawl up in your lap and want to cuddle anymore, but they still want to be heard, seen, and valued. Do not let these kids push you away. Stay attuned. It may be uncomfortable for you, but you are a mother. And as mothers, it is not our job to be comfortable.
Please stay tuned this week as Natalie and Joleen continue to share characteristics of a healthy mother. As always, thanks for stopping by.
Written by Alexa Griffith, LMHC, LCAC, NCC, RPT
Alexa Griffith, LMHC, LCAC, NCC, RPT is a licensed therapist and Registered Play Therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. Alexa enjoys doing marriage counseling, individual counseling, couples and relationship counseling. Alexa also does play therapy, family counseling, child counseling, and adolescent counseling. Imagine Hope serves the Indianapolis area, including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, Zionsville, and Westfield