Being PART of a relationship

Daniel Siegel, MD discusses the importance of presence, attunement, resonance, and trust in developing attachment between children and parents. He is very good at creating handy acronyms, and uses PART to refer to these concepts. His work is amazing and I highly recommend it (see this link:

As PARTners or PARenTs, our relationships benefit from a daily dose of: a present moment together, with focused attention, to lovingly respond and enhance trust. That is a long sentence but the time it takes to read it, is about as much time as it takes to do it.

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A Brave Presence

I mentioned bravery in the last post. I think kids are really smart and observant about your life and their own. They can ask hard questions about the sensitive or secretive or scary things. You have to be brave to listen to their questions about drugs, sex, death, divorce, cancer, failure, faith, monsters, mistakes, bad luck, bad choices, bad people. It is tempting to dismiss them with a “you’re too young” or “none of your concern”, or “I don’t know”, but they look to you to help them understand. If they are asking, they understand something and it is up to you to help them figure the rest of it out.

Take a deep breath, hem and haw a moment if necessary, and then ask them what they mean. We often react too fast out of our own fears and miss their point if we start talking too much. Give them a moment to clarify their thoughts. Then you have time to register what they are asking, so you can answer the actual question. Especially about the difficult topics, kids want a truthful answer they can understand. They don’t need every detail or caveat, but they need to believe you. If you need more time to think about it, that is OK. Telling the truth can include admitting you don’t know what to say right now, but you will get back to them.

Psychological Presence

How can we show psychological presence to our children?

We are so busy. So being in the same room or doing the same thing at the same time, can be a comforting intimacy without demanding too much energy. Hanging out (physical presence) is good. Kids don’t need to heart to heart chats (psychological presence) all the time. Mostly, they want to do what they want to do and get you to let them do it. But, sometimes, in middle of hanging out, they need you to really pay attention to them for a moment. The trick is noticing that moment and finding the energy, patience, time and bravery, to meet them with full attention.

Sometimes they need a hug, sometimes they need to be seen, sometimes they need to be stopped, sometimes they need to talk and sometimes they need to be heard. If you can take a breath and a moment to check their emotional temperature, you have a better chance of offering the appropriate response.

When you check a child’s fever, you look at them closely to see if their eyes are glassy, you place your wrist on their forehead, wait a moment and let the temperature register as warmer (or not) compared to your own, ask a few more questions and sort through possible explanations and then decide what to do. The same set of behaviors: look closely, wait a moment, compare your reactions, ask some questions and then decide what to do, works pretty well as a model for psychological presence.