The connections we make between each other, between family members that happen through life is exactly what glues the members of a family together. Intimacy, that deepest connection that keeps us together, happens when we support each other through hard times… when we can predict the other’s needs… when we share laughter… within the touch and feel of a snuggly hug… when we cry on the other’s shoulder… in the comfort of silent companionship… Intimacy is feeling connected.
We build these connections in the brief moments in which we open to each other, when we become vulnerable and how our loved ones respond to us. When a relationship is a happy one, when one opens up to the other – being it between parents and children, romantic partners, siblings or friends – the other responds warmly. Regardless of what the issue is, the process of reaching out and getting a response in return is what builds the relationship. When these openings happen and are responded warmly in a consistent way, one tends to reach out more frequently to that person, the trust level becomes strong and the depth of the openings increases and we feel closer.
When a child reaches out with a concern “I’m worried about… ” and receives a caring response, they usually elaborate on it and many times ask for advice. This caring interaction makes both feel closer. However, when a child’s attempt to reach out is ignored or responded to in a way that feels cold, he/she will try not to open-up again and the relationship misses an opportunity to become closer. The child is hurt and a wall begins to build towards that person to avoid that vulnerability.
We can always picture ourselves asking a question to our child “How was your project presentation today…?” and we get a response that actually shares the experience, we might ask further and take the conversation to a deeper level. However, if the response is “All right”, “Fine”, or just a syllable sound, we are likely to stop in our attempt to continue.
If we want to build a close relationship with our child, we ought to respond understandingly, even when they are testing us by responding negatively to our approaches. When they perceive our empathic approach we gain their trust and they can proceed to open up to us. However, when we ignore them, correct them or judge them, they will surely shut down. This happens from time to time in every relationship, but when it happens repeatedly, our children will develop a pattern in which they keep their feelings to themselves. Not only will they stop trying to open to us, but they will reject our attempts to get closer to them.
We can make our relationships close, it involves time, care and vulnerability, it also involves empathy and avoiding being judgmental and cold. We will not get it right every time, but we can get it right most of the time creating intimate interactions that make us closer.