From Cynthia’s Couch: Necessary Nurturing
A blog from Post Adoption and Post Permanency Supervisor, Cynthia Couch, LCSW
If you observe the plants on my back deck it might suggest that I have lost my green thumb or never had one! Those plants have struggled to survive since I only infrequently pay them any attention. The summer heat in Houston has taken its toll on them. More recently I have been reminded that I can’t just water a portion of the yard but every corner of it must have a good soaking.
Children are like plants. We can’t ignore their need for watering, fertilizer, and pruning!
Children demand our nurturing from early on with their night time cries and at times fussy behavior. As a child gets older the nurturing changes and will demand that we set limits (pruning!). But how can we provide support throughout the lifetime of the child to match his or her developmental stage?
This mix of support and reassurance that your child can and will make good choices is the base for appropriate nurturing.
The crucial internal ingredient the parent must have is commitment. Like the infrequent attention I give those plants on the back deck, no child will flourish with inconsistent nurturing. This commitment is shown to the child when we are there for their needs but also when we demonstrate to them that they can manage developmentally appropriate issues on their own. Just think how your child learned to walk. You probably encouraged him by placing him in front of the coffee table to hold on to or took both his hands in yours and then nudged him to take a step. You did not dare leave his side during this time but you let him know by your behavior that you thought he could do it!
We as parents can also set a positive tone in the home by our actions around the house. Music of all kinds, reading, art, and having our children help with home projects all encourage a sense of relational nurturing. Dance with your children, show them articles in the newspaper that you find interesting and ask them how they would like to participate in a family member’s birthday celebration.
They will learn to nurture others by watching you nurture them!
One good way to nurture children of all ages is to continue to read to them at every age. Young children love stories of all kinds and older teens may have a particular interest that you can find material on and share it with them at the dinner table. Never mistake a teenager’s sullen attitude with his or her rejection of your nurturing. You must continue to support and nurture through the upheaval of teen development. As parents we must also work to understand the temperament of each child in our home. Never give a cactus too much water or you will kill it! Each child needs his or her parent to observe them and understand what has meaning to them. An example of this might be that a letter written to your child might get a better response than a sincere talk.
As parents we can’t forget to nurture ourselves as well. It is not enough to hold the commitment to your child and find yourself depleted. Make time for yourself, your important relationships, and to “just have fun”. I’m thinking that watering those plants on the back deck might turn out to be relaxing!
About The Author
As the Post Adoption and Post Permanency Supervisor, Cynthia Couch, LCSW, leads the department in guiding families to resources and support services to help them thrive. After earning her BS in Psychology at Abilene Christian University, her Master’s in Social Work at Simmons College and spending 15 years as mental health practitioner, she discovered her love for working with adoptive families and found her career at Arms Wide.