Remember The Tenderness

“The quality of strength lined with tenderness is an unbeatable combination.”

Maya Angelou 

Here are five every day moments and five spontaneous moments that could be opportunities for shared tenderness. Take one or as many of the suggestions below that work for you.

The first few moments of waking up: There are so many things to get done between waking and getting out the door. With some intention, though, it offers a time for tenderness. There is nothing sweeter than a baby waking up or a child mumbling about the dream he just had. Take a few minutes (or ten) to snuggle up to your child and slowly wake them up. The tender connection will likely help both of you transition through the hectic morning.

The moments before leaving for school/work: Your teen is probably starting to dread the test she has that day. You are probably go over the list of things that need to get done before lunch. But you will also be separated from your child for quite a few hours. Be very present as you let them know that you love them and will miss them. Share a little joke or check in about plans to see each other later in the day. Make sure they head off into their day certain of your support.

The moments of being reunited: Maybe one or both of you need some space, but maybe one or both of you need some tenderness too. Look into your child’s eyes. Ask to hear a story about their day. Stand in the kitchen while you pause to really see how your child is doing. Listen to them. Really just stop and listen.

The moments of breaking bread: Between homework, after school activities and adult responsibilities, it’s easy to grab something easy for dinner and just sit in front of the television or a computer. It’s incredible, however, how children and teens (and your spouse) will open up over some time at the dinner table together. Put the phones on silent in another room and share a meal.

The moments before going to sleep: Tenderness in the minutes before slumber allow for a calming, gentle transition into bedtime. Lay next to your child or sit on the floor. Tell them a story about a brave child who sounds quite a bit like them. Tell them the story of the first time you fell in love with them. Tell your teen about a moment you felt really proud of them or a silly, touching memory you have of their younger self.

Moments when your child is coming toward you: Make space in your heart and mind for them in that moment. Turn toward them. Offer eye contact. Put out your arms in an open invitation. Stop what you are doing for a moment. Welcome them into your space. Show curiosity about what they have been doing. Listen.

Moments your child is moving away from you: Watch them walk away. Smile, wink or nod if they turn their head back. Fondly recall to yourself a memory of when they were younger and you dreamed of this type of independence. Trust.

Moments when your child is struggling: Open your arms. Sit next to them. Be quiet. Listen. Hold them. Hum a favorite song. Rock them. Rub their back. Stroke their hair. Hang in there until the big feelings calm down. Wait with them. Be with them.

Moments when your child is joyful: Allow their joy to be infectious – join in the joy! Delight in their wonderful moment. Ask to hear more. Smile. Laugh. Do an impromptu dance. Be silly. Enjoy them.

Any moment: Mary Ainsworth said, “My advice to parents is not to miss an opportunity to show affection (tenderness) to their babies.”

And of course, they are always our babies, even when they are grown.