My mom is amazing at reciting poetry, memorizing phone numbers and birth dates. She also has an amazing gift to remember stories of growing up in rural Honduras.
There is one particular story she tells of going into the city riding on Macho, the mule, with her dad, my Abuelito. Today it would be a 45 minute car ride; but back then it was a day trip. Part of what made the trip so long was that they had to cross the Choluteca river. And when the rainy season hit, the river grew high, yelled loudly and became fierce. She felt scared.
—¡Tengo miedo! – she would yell at my Abuelito.
And my Abuelito, in a firm but comforting voice, would tell her:
—Hold on tight to me and don’t look down! -so she did. She held on as tight as she could to his back and Macho slowly crossed the fierce river. She was safe and the city was closer.
But today, my children’s experience is different, as different as mine was to my parents.
How do we build a secure attachment with our kids? How do we provide safety, even when it’s not a fierce river we have to cross on a mule? How do we hold space for them and allow them to tell us when they are afraid or sad or lonely?
Joel and I have several ways to check-in on our kids, so that they can be reassured they’re safe with us. One way is to take them out on Parent/Kid dates.
At least once every quarter if not more, for over five years, Joel and I take turns taking our kids out for breakfast or lunch dates. We call them Mommy/Daughter Dates, Mommy/Son Dates, Daddy/Daughter Dates or Daddy/Son Dates. You get the jist.
But this doesn’t just happen. We have to plan it, write it on our schedule, and do it. Otherwise, time passes by with so many other to-dos and commitments. We may end up being around each other, but not really with each other.
We want to say YES to quality time with our kids individually, with hope that they will say YES to time with us in the future. Our kids do grow up quickly and we wonder where all that time went. Did we get to know them? Did they get to know us? Do we know what makes them sad or scared? How are their friendships going? How is life at home for them? Do they feel safe?
We’ve found that just being around each other isn’t enough. We have to connect with conversation. We need eye contact. They need to know there is someone they can hold on tight to if there is a scary fierce river they’re trying to cross. There are some things they aren’t able to cross alone. We are called to be our kids’ safe place.
Empowering kids with character begins first and foremost when they realize (from their gut) that they are safe. When the basic need for safety is provided by a child’s primary care-giver (physical, emotional, mental), then a child will have a much better chance to develop the character traits so needed in this world: peace, joy, kindness, compassion and true empathy. If they have received these traits, they will be more likely to offer them to the world.
Don’t lose hope! And don’t give up on yourself or your kids. Give them your time and attention! You won’t regret it.
To help you connect deeper to your kids, here are some questions we’ve used from the book Raising Up a Generation of Healthy Third Culture Kids by Lauren Wells. You may not get the chance to ask them all in one sitting, but you must always begin with the first one!
- How are you doing?
- What are some things you enjoy about living here?
- Do you ever wish that we lived a different life?
- What is something you’re looking forward to?
- What is something you’re not looking forward to?
- Do you feel like we spend enough time together?
- Where do you feel most at home?
- Is there anyone or anything you miss right now?
- Do you feel like people understand you?
- What is your favorite thing about yourself?
Another book to help you in your parenting journey is: Parenting from the Inside Out by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D.
Let me know how it goes!
Cinthya Salgado Tumlison has been a teacher in Honduras and the United States. She holds a M.A. in Teaching Second Languages and is fluent in Spanish, her native language, and English.
Cinthya is a mom of three bi-cultural kids whom she homeschooled while living on the rural north coast of Honduras and serving at a mission hospital. Most days, you can find Cinthya Ubering her kids to and from school and their extra-curricular activities in the US.
She is passionate about helping parents ignite their kid´s curiosity about other cultures and representing Honduras in the picture book world. She is a member of SCBWI.