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Getting better at relationship repair

What is relationship repair? Repair is recognising the rupture in our relationship, that moment when we became unavailable to our children as their secure base and taking steps to restore our connection.

Ruptures are inevitable. They happen. They are part of our relationship with our children.

Unrepaired ruptures can damage and weaken our connection. They can leave a lingering sense that it's not ok to share certain emotions, thoughts, and parts of ourselves, and we may end up drifting further and further apart.

Repaired ruptures make our relationships stronger and more secure, it offers opportunities to get to know each other in somewhat new ways, and get out of the patterns that no longer serve us.

Ruptures are inevitable. Repair is optional.

I don't think it's a coincidence that repair is the last topic covered in the Circle of Security Parenting course. That's where all pieces of secure attachment come together. Being consistent with the repair is the key to creating a secure relationship with your child.

Unrepaired ruptures can be a source of hurt more many years, they can get wired into our nervous systems. Here is an example: "I never knew whether I could get a warm, caring and understanding mum or whether she would be cold and shout at me. Eventually, I stopped going to her with what was bothering me."

Can you imagine what would have happened if that mum had the resources to say something like: "I'm sorry I shouted at you. I was feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. It must have been pretty scary for you. Would you be willing to tell me that thing you were trying to talk about again?"

As parents, it is our responsibility to initiate repair after a rupture. It's pretty vulnerable to both initiate the repair and for children to accept our attempts of repair. Luckily, we can create the virtuous cycle: the more we do it, the easier it gets both for us and our children.

How is the repair done? There are four steps to good repair:

  1. Recognising the rupture

  2. Regulating our own emotions

  3. Helping our children regulate their emotions

  4. Revisiting the moment when the rupture happened, talking it through, and looking for different ways to deal with similar situations in the future. This is where the magic, the growth, and the deepening of the connection happen.

We dive much deeper into the four steps of repair during the Circle of Security Parenting course.


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