Children going in circles… I’m sure you have images of children walking round and round almost like those puppy dogs that try to catch their own tails. While that may be a pretty funny image in your mind, it’s not actually what I’m talking about today. I’m talking about the circles or ‘checking in’ that children do with their parents.
Still confused? Let me tell you a bit more. Have you ever noticed that your toddler wanders off exploring toys, other children or play equipment but then 5 or 10 minutes later comes back in to ‘check in’ give you a quick cuddle and then goes off again? How about your teenager wanting to go out till all hours of the night with friends and then other times comes to lie with you in your bed to talk or watch a movie?
This is a universal phenomenon with all children, with all ages. They get ‘filled up’ by their parents with love and encouragement to explore the world (picture yourself as the tap filling up your child’s cup). They then feel strong enough to explore the world around them; for infants it may just be about seeing new things around them, for toddlers it may mean exploring the bugs in the playground and for teenagers it may mean navigating new friendships. What is clear however, no matter the child and no matter the age – coming back to ‘check in’ and ‘fill up’ from their parents when their cup is running on empty is critical in their development and capacity to explore their world.
Question 1: Why does my child need to ‘check in’ with me every 2 minutes and my friend’s child only seems to ‘check in’ every 20 minutes or so?
Just like with many other elements of a child’s personality… every child is different! When your child feels ‘full’ from all that you have given, they will go out and explore, when they need to be ‘refilled’ they come straight back. Some bubs can go off for an hour before checking in with mum… others need to check in every few minutes to be ‘refilled’. This can change from child to child and also from day to day. Some things that seem to empty your child’s cup quicker include developmental advances, sickness, change, holidays & new surroundings.
Question 2: My husband is better at letting go and letting my child explore, but I’m better at ‘filling’ my child up. How can we improve?
Perfection is not the goal… we will never be able to achieve 100% success with every skill. Again, just as children are different so too are adults – we all have our strengths, so don’t be too hard on yourself. It is helpful to notice which parts you find easier and which are more difficult for you. Just noticing what you find hard will inevitably help you to modify and change those areas.
As parents, it’s important to explore your child’s exploration of the world around them by watching over them and helping them as needed. It is equally as important to welcome their coming back to you by filling them up with whatever it is they need; love, comfort, support and understanding.
PS. I am offering FREE Bulk Billed positions for our Children’s Social Skills Groups and Anxiety Management Groups in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs when you like GroupWorx Psychology’s Facebook page. Click Here.
Stefanie is passionate about youth mental health, particularly anxiety, depression and eating disorders and has a wealth of experience from her work in private practice, government clinics and the world-renowned eating disorders clinic; The Centre For Clinical Interventions. Stefanie is married and mum to 15 month old son Asher.