Love bombing, is a concept that parents connect with their children by finding time to do what the child wants to do, reports Gwen Loughman
Acouple of years back my son was experiencing a little disharmony in school. Not a chatterbox at the best of times, I decided the two of us would go for lunch. To say I couldn’t get a word in edgeways is an understatement. It seemed that once he was away from and out of the shadow of his brothers, he found the power of speech.
Unbeknownst to myself I had dipped into a parenting technique that has become known as ‘love bombing’. An idea developed by psychologist Oliver James, author of the book by the same name: Love Bombing: Reset Your Child’s Emotional Thermostat, it involves spending time alone with your child and giving them an intensive period of attention and devotion. This time frame can be anything from a day to a few hours during which they are allowed take control of the reigns.
The objective is the child reconnects with their parent by setting the pace, so if your three-year-old wants a Peppa Pig marathon or your tween opts for a day of bowling, the point is your child has chosen it. The whole experience is hugely positive as the child feels their emotional needs are being met.
Counsellor and psychotherapist Padraic Dunne (feelbetterstaybetter.com) explains why, despite our best efforts, we sometimes disengage from our children.
“Twenty-first century life is hectic and demanding. It’s hard for most adults to stay in the present moment whether that is in a professional, family or recreational context. This can germinate anxieties which makes matters worse,” says Dunne. “Children can see this in their parents and consciously or unconsciously view this behaviour as lack of interest or care. Parents don’t do this intentionally but the effect on vulnerable children over the long term can be damaging. A concentrated period of time where all of the parent’s attention is dedicated to one child is invaluable; this time refuels the child’s emotional tank.”
The term love bombing might initially appear to be yet another fashionable buzzword but, as I discovered, there are plenty of parents , dads in particular, who have been practising this organically without ever having heard of the concept.
Dads like Martin Hyland who says he doesn’t buy into the concept “per se” but feels it may well work. He prefers a more holistic approach saying his son Fíachra (6) has always had the freedom to express himself without being judged.
“He has no difficulty talking his problems or emotions through with me. We talk freely and openly. We work and play together, grow our food together, we go to festivals together, we explore the world and all its wonders together. We strive for fairness and equality in all we do and most importantly we are there for each other through life’s ups and downs, and there has been plenty of them and I’m sure plenty more to come. I was never not ‘connected’ to my boy. We are very fortunate to have a first class relationship.”
Hyland’s philosophy on how to connect with our children is very simple. “Really listen to your kids. If they don’t want to talk, respect their wishes. Be seen to be just as vulnerable as they are. Show your weaknesses to them. It’s often small things but nothing is trivial to a child. Don’t say it’ll be alright when none of us really know. Let them know that no matter what, you have their back and together you’ll get through it.
“Your presence and love is really all most kids wish to have from their parents but modern living makes this more difficult than ever before. We’re all just winging it if the truth be told. There are no dress rehearsals to parenting.”
It can be extremely difficult responding to one child and their needs if there are a couple more in the wings demanding attention as well.
“Find a moment; weed the garden, paint the fence or blow the tops off dandelions. Whatever works. Offer your time on their terms. Be there for them in a time of their choosing.”
Val Mullally, CEO of Koemba Parenting and author of Behave — What to Do When Your Child Won’t, shares a similar outlook. “Taking a step back from the business of your schedule to reflect on whether your children are experiencing your love isn’t a new concept. You could view love bombing as a mega dose of good, old fashioned TLC. We need to recognise that our relationship with our child is like any other — dependant on mutual respect and compassionate understanding. A key thing is to remember that what makes you feel loved isn’t necessarily what makes your child feel loved. Regardless of our age, what we all need is the sort of intimate connection that love bombing creates.”
When Liam Whelan became a stay at home dad, it put in place a change for his two-year-old son, Conor. “My wife and I decided to take Conor out of crèche which meant taking him away from his friends. But I made sure he was included in every aspect of my day.”
Another dad who was unaware of the expression love bombing, nonetheless Liam is a staunch believer in the technique. “It is an amazing way for your child to understand they are valued and just as important as anyone else in the family unit.”
However, as a result of the ensuing time they spend together, Liam feels Conor has become more dependent on him. “When he wakes at night he calls for me now. I guess he has become more emotionally attached. The downside of that is my wife no longer feels she is the go-to parent for sore bumps to be kissed.”
Padraic Dunne responds to a possible negative aspect of intense parenting with the observation that, “These moments in time feel as if they will last forever and have a lasting impact on relationships. However, life is usually much more eventful and complex than that.”
Val Mullally says the bottom line is that love bombing can reduce anxiety and stress as it increases ‘feel good’ endorphins, which in turn suppress the stress chemical cortisol.
And for those who remain sceptical? “It’s irrelevant whether love bombing is flavour of the month,” says Dunne. “If it helps parents instil confidence in their child, the key is to just do it because the evidence shows it works.”
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