When Kids Reject Affection, Don’t Give Up!

When Kids Reject Affection (1)

Parents love to connect with their children. But it’s not always so easy.

Some children (whether tots or teens) respond to their parents’ affection in a way that says “‘Private property, No trespassing’ in this heart of mine.” The child may withdraw into a private world of books, iPods, friends, or media. This may seem like angry, even defiant behavior.

When this happens, it’s common to become disheartened and assume that our children really don’t want a relationship with us. However, we’ve found that more often than not, children desperately want a relationship with their parents. Behind the stiff arm that says “Stay out of my life,” the other hand beckons us tentatively, “I need your love!”

One parent shared an inspiring email with us about discovering the secret of connection with her challenging child. Enjoy the story!

Last week when Greta asked if she and I could go out for lunch for a special date, my mind raced back to one of my desperate attempts to connect with her just a few years ago. I remembered the day I took her to a favorite quiet spot, made her a cup of hot chocolate and brought some crayons and paper. Greta dove right into the activities but wouldn’t look up or engage in conversation. I commented on how pretty her picture was and how I loved her array of colors. She stopped coloring long enough to say, “Please don’t say those things to me.” Lost for ideas, I remained quiet, afraid of pushing her further away. She spent the rest of the time coloring.

It was incredibly discouraging that my daughter couldn’t handle verbal or physical affection. There were no “I love you’s,” no hugs and snuggles. I felt empty and hopeless about our relationship. In spite of her resistance, I felt committed to seeking ways to connect with her. I eventually discovered that when I wrote caring notes in Greta’s journal, she privately savored each word! Over the months and years that we exchanged journal entries and notes, she gradually began to enjoy all the forms of affection that she had previously refused.

After reflecting on that day from just a few short years ago, I couldn’t help but smile all the way through our lunch. During our conversation, Greta felt fully at ease and shared with me about her friends at school, her thoughts of the future and her favorite activities. We laughed about things that Daddy and her little brother did and discussed plans for the evening.  She very openly told me how much she enjoyed spending time together and I told her how glad I was that she requested this lunch date.  As we walked out to the car, holding hands, conversation still going strong, I was overwhelmed with joy and gratitude. Through many hours of prayer and perseverance I had discovered how to unlock the treasures of my precious little girl’s heart!

What a great story of how persistence pays off. It can be hard to learn to not take your child’s resistance personally. But it’s well worth the fight – for both of you!

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