Call and Response
Over the winter break, I had the great joy of visiting my nephew, his partner, and their adorable 2 month old son. My nephew found it odd that they will send you home with a newborn without any instructions on how to care for it, but when you buy anything at IKEA you get a sturdy user manual explaining how to put something together. How are parents supposed to know what to do? Family members and friends often share their opinions on what the new parents should do. With all the advice rolling in from different angles, it leaves many new parents confused.
A new baby is just calling out with needs of hunger, being too cold or too warm, having a dirty diaper, or wanting to be held. According to attachment theory, when a parent responds with empathy, children learn to depend on this adult. Trusting from early on that people will be there for them, these children will have more ease in adult relationships. They are able to give attuned care, which they received as a child, to their partner, and feel comfortable asking for what they need.
Sue Johnson, the founder of Emotionally Focused Therapy, and author of “Hold me Tight”, stresses that emotional responsiveness is the key to lasting love for couples. Throughout the day adults are looking for connection through small interactions that indicate if a person is an available source of comfort. Just as a baby expresses its need for care, and a parent gets up to hold it, adults thrive on confirmation that the important people around them will support them. We all are humans longing for connection with people who value our feelings, and are willing to nurture the relationship. Being present and emotionally responsive to your loved ones is the foundation of healthy relating. I am hoping that this reminder brings more joy to your relationships in the coming year.