Are you available for your children?
Most of us would probably say yes, but are we really available for them in our busy everyday lives where stress abounds, deadlines press and the clock seems to tick away faster than ever before. We might go to their school plays, turn up at parents evening and even tuck them into their beds at night but is that enough for children to feel that we are available to them.
So how emotionally available are you? How often have you walked round the supermarket and seen a frantic mother trying to pull in the groceries for the next week, answer work calls on her mobile phone at the same time, tie shoes laces of the wandering toddler with baby crying in the front seat. It’s an everyday occurrence yet without a word of judgement defies the very thing that our children need from us and that is emotional availability.
The little thing that goes past just being there. That goes past simply spending time with your child. That extends beyond serving meals, washing their clothes, cleaning behind their ears and getting them out to school on time. Emotional availability is quality – quality time and quality relationships.
Emotional availability is more than the bread and butter of parenting. It is the jam and then it is the cake that comes on a plate of high tea. It isn’t just the cup of tea, it is the milk the sugar and the teaspoon to stir the tea with the tray that the tea is put on and the smile that accompanies its service.
Emotional availability is the iphone, netbook, notebook, tv and chore free zone. The sit on the floor and play with your child. The around the table, not cut short, chat and catch up with your teenager. It is the face of understanding and compassion and is the difference between a secure, stable and resilient child and the one who faces problems later on in life.
Emotional availability is the listening ear of parenting. It’s the availability that finds the space to sit back and attune to your child’s sentiments and being and puts in the quality time to facilitate this. Not just what they are saying, but why they are saying and what they really mean. It’s the availability that says I have all the time in the world for you and the availability that locks the “I’m in a crazy rush – just spit it out and say it” mentality away. It’s the availability that actually plays that board game, goes for that walk together, eats a family meal around a table.
Emotional availability can make the difference between positive outcomes with health, relationships and future prospects and those that collapse and disintegrate even later on in life. What’s more it’s never too late to start.
So how on earth is this possible in our ever pushed world. In a nutshell that is for each of us to fathom out but it is something that extends past time. Emotional availability is a way of life. A way of being. It’s not just a matter of clearing a slot in the diary or changing the routine to facilitate your child. Emotional availability aligns with empathy. It’s the space that we give ourselves to understand the world around us and if that includes children then it’s the space that we take to understand them as well; to see the world through their eyes; to take on their perspective; to listen to their moans, groans, pleasures and much more. It’s the space that doesn’t judge, puts blame to one side but truly listens and comprehends.
Emotional availability is the now. It’s not something that can wait tomorrow and it’s not something to grieve as missing in the past. So why not, stop (just for a minute), breathe, turn off your phone, your computer, your TV and think – think “what was it like when I was growing up, how did I feel, what did I want and then listen.” Listen to your child, your inner child, and talk. Yes – communicate with meaningful heart felt language that avails you emotionally to your child and then sit back, new quality regime in place that puts this as a continuing spectrum in yours and their life and watch them flourish and grow into the beautiful, all rounded, happy healthy children that we all wish for.