During Quarantine times, we have figured out how to show up for people in many different ways. We showed up for the first responders with a 7 o’clock cheer, we showed up for our neighbours who could not get groceries, we showed up for people who were isolated.
Showing up looks different for each person because of how we were raised and the culture that we grew up in. (Check out that blog here). Showing up is not merely about the physical presence. It is often about being connected through emotion. Our last blog in this series ties together the focus on attachment and relationships that are built when we are all young and through the connection with those in our life. Being able to show up for those challenging times strengthens that emotion with other people and takes that connection deeper in order to foster a positive, healthy relationship.
Let’s think of how our parents raised us and how you may currently parent. Parenting doesn’t come with a handbook and a physical presence is where many parents believe that it will be enough for their kids to recognize that they are supportive. It means attending sports games, music performances, kids’ birthday parties, volunteering for field trips and joining the PAC. This is considered involved parenting and that is amazing! In actuality, kids don’t know the value, time and effort being placed in these roles that parents have assigned importance to in their child’s life. Where it matters for them is that you are the parent who can show up when difficult conversations come up. And it might look like being curious instead of defensive or jumping to judgement. Being curious, asking questions gently, and remembering not to start your sentences with “I think you should ….” are places where kids find value in parenting relationships. Being present with your kid is about understanding what it is that they are thinking, not what you think they should think. Showing up in these moments does not mean fixing their problems, but it involves non-judgmental listening and conveying that feeling of “I hear you and I am here with you.” This supports healthy resiliency and the ability to cope
As we can all relate, growing older means parents need to show up differently. When kids are younger, showing up might be listening to their stories, playing pretend, having tea parties and these small interactions foster a sense of connecting, belonging, caring and love. Youth will drift and prefer other activities so they don’t need parents managing their lives. So when youth need parents, at those rare moments for a movie or a shopping day or even if it’s a meal or before bed, just to catch up. It is important to be fully present in those moments. This does not just apply to youth, think about the other relationships you have in your life and how these same principles could apply too!
You can have all the basic needs, food, shelter, money, clothing and if you are not mentally present, you miss a core connection with that person. Most people will notice when you are not present and listening. You can see it when people pick up their phones in the middle of a face-to-face conversation to send a text message. Reading the body language and seeing the lack of eye contact means that the person they have been talking to has just “mentally checked out”. So what happens during these moments? We stop sharing, we stop talking. We feel like the other person does not care or what we say is not valuable. After all, who wants to talk to someone when we know they’re disengaged?
What does this mean? It means when they are telling you that story, you are not thinking about your job, lists, your phone notifications or anything else. You are focusing on the story and the person only at that moment. Take note of what happened during the day that allows you to be more aware and continue to build those into your days. This is not an easy thing to do, so try not to be hard on yourself when you are unable to be present all the time. We have lots to worry about and a "story" we have heard repeatedly can feel like less of a priority. We repeat our stories multiple times because we are trying to work it through in our heads how we should think, act, respond or react to the situation. Your role is to listen and to be curious so it helps them to organize their thoughts, behaviours and actions.
Being present with each other allows for vulnerability. These moments provide the opportunities to foster a stronger bond and a deeper connection. The ways of being present can show up in all of your relationships, whether it be with your partner or even with yourself.