From the Rector…
Opportunities for family gatherings abound at this time of year—they can also cause considerable stress. Meltdowns at the dinner table, disagreements about politics, sports, or almost anything else are more common than not for many families. A few years ago, SNL did a skit about a Thanksgiving Miracle in which every time the tension ran high around the dinner table, Adele’s song Hello would play and everyone would stop arguing and start singing. Whatever it takes to get through a family get-together.
As comical as the skit is (and so many of our family gatherings at times) there is also an undercurrent of truth regarding how we stay connected to one another. It’s not easy. Families take work. We might be born into them but the way we remain connected often reflects how we learned to attach to one another from our earliest childhood experiences.
Attachment Theory understands that children attach to parents, particularly their mothers, in four ways—secure, avoidant, anxious, and disorganized. The first three reflect stable households in which a child learns adaptive coping strategies that reflect the experiences the child might have. The fourth, disorganized attachment, is the most harmful as it is the product of an unstable and threatening household in which the child is exposed to traumatic events and does not learn or develop positive life strategies to deal with future trauma or experiences. This extreme is not typical but does call for concern and compassion.
Secure, avoidant, and anxious attachment often reflect how a child experiences a household in which the parents are really doing the best they can. Not all children will experience the same types of attachment in the same household. One child might experience secure attachment, and another might experience avoidant or anxious attachment. The nurturing environment has a lot to do with how the child experiences attachment. There are other factors, but if a parent works hard to offer consistent boundaries and attention—children will do well for the most part.
Home is not the only ground for providing a nurturing environment—nor should it be. Though parents should be consistent at home in their parenting, they should also look for opportunities outside the home in which to offer a nurturing environment and build positive attachment with children. A
great place for that to happen is at church.
Worship is a non-threatening activity that usually feeds a child’s sense of security. Their parents are in the pew or close by. They are immersed in a consistent rhythm that helps their bodies and their brains develop positive social and coping behaviors. Children who get “squirmy” in the pew are not disruptive and when parents allow a certain amount of fluidity to happen in the worship experience—like coloring the Children’s Bulletin or sitting on a kneeler—they often settle down quickly. The benefits a child receives in worship are not only positive role modeling by the parents, but healthier brains, an increased sense of security, and even the metamorphosis of learning to worship (a lot more soaks in than parents often realize).
Worship is not the only way a family can nurture and care for its emotional security. Things like making Chrismons as a family last Sunday or Advent wreaths this coming Sunday are important ways for children to grow in secure attachment with their parents. Secure attachment is often experienced when a child is aware of where their parents are physically and how much they are attending to them. When a child knows where the parent is and is reassured by the parent’s attentiveness toward the child, they often feel secure attachment. In spending time as a family making Chrismons or Advent wreaths, a child can wander from the family and return to reassure themselves that the family knows they are there. The family, in turn, can allow the child to wander or even wander themselves and still offer verbal and physical cues of reassurance whenever the child needs their attention. The setting is safe and non-threatening to both child and parent. Thus, it becomes a perfect opportunity not only to worship the Lord but to offer the family a positive, nurturing experience that has far-reaching implications—even into Thanksgiving 2043 where you might not have to rely on Adele to save your own family gathering.
Ascension is committed to Family Formation by offering a variety of opportunities for intergenerational experiences that nurture families and our spiritual development. You are never too old or young to experience formation, especially as a family. Join us this Sunday in making Advent wreaths and memories that will last a lifetime.
Light and Life,