elevating child care

The Very Best Way to Bond with a Child (A Grandparent’s Story)

I’m not exaggerating when I say that I idolize someone who can approach the sensitive topic of caring for children with an egoless, open mind. I’m especially impressed when these are grandparents, because they’ve raised their own children already and yet are open to learning as much as they can, and maybe even doing things differently with their grandchildren. I can only hope to be one of them someday.
That said, I jumped at the chance to share Gaynor’s story, which she related as a comment on one of my most read posts: The Key to Your Child’s Heart. The post is about the powerful and sometimes miraculous effects of simply acknowledging our children’s feelings. Gaynor shared:

“I have an amazing example of how well acknowledging works. My daughter was out of town for four days, and my hubby and I kept her daughter, Via. My daughter’s flight home arrived late Sunday night, so she and her husband spent the night with us. Via had been happy the whole time at our home, so Monday when Via became unusually emotional, I was puzzled.

Her mom was busy packing up things to go home, so I sat down on our couch, eye level with my 22-month-old granddaughter and gently said, “Via, I see you’re upset. You may not have all the words yet to tell me why, but I can see that something is bothering you. Maybe you’re sad that you’re leaving our house, or confused about Mommy leaving and coming back home.”

She immediately melted into me and hugged me tightly, as if she understood every single word I said. And as I read your article, I realized she probably understood the main aspect: I acknowledged her feelings.

And that was that. She got into her mom’s car and took off without a fuss.

It was such a huge moment for me to see how truly effective acknowledging a young one’s feelings can be. They just need to know we’re TRYING to understand them as they attempt to communicate fears, desires, independence, etc.” 

As Gaynor discovered, acknowledging “works” when…

We are genuinely curious and interested in a child’s perspective and experience.

Our intention is purely to understand and connect.

We are calm rather than fearful or impatient.

We aren’t attempting to say the right words in order to calm or fix the feelings.

We ask or suggest what children might be feeling, rather than labeling their feelings for them.

Acknowledging is the very best way to bond with children because it proves:

We don’t judge
We accept them wholly as is
We are their safe place
They don’t ever need to feel alone in their thoughts and feelings

Thank you again, Gaynor, for sharing your beautiful story and photos!

Related Posts with Thumbnails

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5 Responses to “The Very Best Way to Bond with a Child (A Grandparent’s Story)”

  1. avatar Maria says:

    Great reminder! I’ve always tried to acknowledge my daughter’s feelings (she’s now 3) and it’s been a great help in navigating her ever-changing moods. But when she’s in full meltdown mode and incredibly angry, she will try to control every aspect of my reaction, like screaming at me to hold her, or to hold her standing up if I’m kneeling next to her, or to get her some water. I try to acknowledge calmly without letting her control my reactions but sometimes I wonder if I’m responding to her in the best way possible. Any tips, Janet?

    • avatar janet says:

      I would say less and trust more. When she makes those requests while in the middle of tantrum… just nod your head and allow her to vent. Trust this process. It can be challenging, because children will impulsively demand the things that stab us in the heart. The most loving thing you can do is perceive this as all part of her tantrum/expression and keep holding that space for her to release the feelings. You can do this!

  2. avatar Vicki says:

    This is how I win over my grandchildren.
    I am attuned with them, like this grandmother. Accepting and acknowledging them makes a bond fast.

  3. avatar Kate says:

    I appreciate so much your advice about the power of acknowledgement. I remember you mentioning in a post that it’s not even necessary to always empathize but just to acknowledge. That was so helpful to me! I had been thinking acknowledging and empathizing went together, and sometimes I can sincerely empathize. For those times though when I really can’t relate or truly understand what my son is feeling, acknowledgement by itself seems all that’s needed! Thanks!

  4. avatar Ackerly Rick says:

    And absolutely fabulous story. The very last paragraph is the most important

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