Distance and joy: loving parents feel them both

Week 7 of Mindful with your toddler  is about skilfully dealing with conflicts and distance. Parents practice with allowing difficult feelings, and consciously bridging the gap with their toddler.

Many parents expect of themselves that they overflow with love 24 hours a day. For there to be a constant flow of joy around our children, no matter what they do, and how tired or stressed we are. Perhaps you have that expectation as well.

But accepting discord and difficult feelings is a sign of faith. Faith that we can always solve conflicts with our toddler, and close the gap between us. As Eva Potharst writes: good relationships are not defined by the lack of conflicts, but by the ability to overcome and repair them.

Feelings can change from moment to moment. Are you and your toddler cuddling together? And did you have a good night’s sleep? You may feel loads of joy and love.
Is your toddler kicking and shouting? And did you come home from a stressful day at work? You may feel other things altogether.

As with most things in life, feelings depend on the situation. And that does not have to be a problem at all.

Perhaps it is helpful to make a distinction between love and emotions. 
The underlying love you have for your child, the attachment and the care, that is probably rock-solid unconditional.
The emotions and feelings you experience, change colour and intensity from moment to moment. They can be seen as mental states, and they depend on the state your are in, and what’s happening around you.

So when we are feeling distant, perhaps worn out and frustrated, do we still love your child? Of course we do. Do we dance with joy? Probably not.
And what is the effect of conflict on our children? That depends on how we deal with it.

If we take care of ourselves and then make room for our child’s needs, we can consciously bridge the gap. Especially when we give words to the situation, it helps our toddlers to make sense of what they see and what they are feeling.

By going through these fluctuations together, toddlers can learn that emotions and feelings are OK. If mom or dad is not blown over by difficult emotions, there is no need to fear conflicts. And your rock-solid love does not depend on their smiles.

By being honest to yourself, and dealing with distance skilfully, you foster the trust between you and your toddler. And then distance, conflicts and difficult emotions are not only part of life, but also solidifying the relationship between you and your child.