An experienced child psychologist in the UK has used her own family experiences to remind us how separated families stay connected.
It’s obvious. Granny Whitcombe describes what we all know how to do. But – as she has done before – Dr Whitcombe explains how ignorant we can also be.
Many of us – ordinary folk, pundits and even the professionals too – forget about the basic skills that make family relationships work. Especially when families live at any kind of distance.
With more families now living in separated or distant ways, these skills are more important than ever, if our children are to grow up healthy for life.
Avoidance is rarely the solution
Granny Whitcombe’s two year old granddaughter only gets to see her once every 6-8 weeks. Skypes and Zooms don’t mean much to a toddler. But Mum knows how to “keep granny alive” for her daughter in her absence. And Mum helps her little girl’s anxiety when Granny does meet up so that trust and fun take over.
Children will often be upset
Dr Whitcombe sets out how different her relationships might have been if her granddaughter’s parents let distrust and fears grow. She writes:
“Children in these circumstances will often be upset, distraught, crying, clinging, physically resisting or running away. Such behaviour does not usually mean that a child is expressing fear of a [distant] parent. … Continued distancing – keeping the child away from the parent – will not resolve the child’s anxiety. Avoidance is rarely, if ever, the solution to irrational fear.”
Adults may forget these natural skills when they’re keen to protect children from upset and harm. But unnecessary protection itself may deliver a diferent risk and harm to the kids – one with serious life-long effects.
For our children’s sake, we need to remember how separated families stay connected and healthy.