7 effective ways to promote family connection.
I feel the toy car hit me in the back of the leg for the tenth time today. Then it occurs to me – it is two in the afternoon and I have yet to sit down and just play with my two-year-old. Exercise class, check. Grocery shopping, tick. Make a small dent in the gargantuan pile of laundry, done. Play…nope! Being a child therapist I know full well that if I don’t take the time to slow down and connect with my child, he will seek other, less than optimal, ways to have his needs met.
I also know that not only is connection the key to meeting my child’s emotional needs, it is also the key to him actually wanting to cooperate with my requests and demands (especially given that he is a strong-willed child), so let’s be honest; connection creates a win-win situation here.
With all the demands life places on parents today, it can feel downright impossible to have time to sit and just be with our children – to really truly connect, with no other motive involved. These straightforward tips will make having time to connect more achievable for even the busiest parent.
7 Powerful Tips for Creating Family Connection, Even On Your Busiest Days
1. Be Intentional
Why not throw ‘play with Sarah for 15 minutes’ on your to-do list, or set a similar reminder on your phone? After all, we do it for tasks of much less importance. It’s highly likely that if we aren’t intentional about connecting with our kids it won’t happen. We need to take necessary steps to make sure we remember and make it happen, whatever that might mean for your family’s routine and schedule.
We hear SO much about this one, and rightly so, because it’s just so darn important. Technology provides the constant possibility of distraction from our kids, and the risk of taking us away from what’s happening in the present moment. When you want to connect with your child, make a conscious effort to eliminate your device as an object of distraction.
3. Zip It
Most kids spend the majority of their day meeting the directives and demands of adults which is why it is so incredibly powerful for children then to have an opportunity to be listened to and validated by the grown-ups in their lives.
If your child comes to you with a story or problem from school it most likely means he or she needs a listening ear, and possibly a gentle question to guide them in their own problem solving, “What do you think you’ll do about that?” What a gift it is, to help your child to feel heard and empowered (and also… less work for you! Yay!)
4. Meet Them Where They’re At
Don’t have anything planned for your ‘connection time’? No worries! Walk on over and jump right into your child’s world. Drop your structured adult brain agenda and just get in there! Ask questions, listen, and climb into that amazing brain you helped to create!
5. Open Up
I’m not sure about you, but I can safely say that ninety percent of the time I’m around my children I am the G rated, stick up by bottom, gotta be perfect, boring mom version of myself. Children LOVE to get to know their parents for who they are as people, and often light up when parents share personal stories from their own childhoods, or even just from last week at work! If it’s a story they can relate to or learn from, bonus points!
6. Take it Where You Can Get It
Depending on the season of life we’re in, we may find ourselves hard pressed to have time to actually sit down in our own home and connect. Don’t stress though as it can be just as beneficial (and even more beneficial for adolescents) to connect on the go. The car is a fabulous example. Many sensitive kids or teens feel threatened or intimidated by the intensity of eye to eye content during face to face discussions. Car rides home from soccer practice might be the best time to encourage vulnerability and connection.
7. Be in the Moment
If I earned a dollar for every time I saw an article about mindfulness lately, I’d have a lot of money. If the articles were specifically about the amazing benefits of mindfulness shown by research, to both our physical and mental health, I’d be rich! What exactly does mindfulness mean? Staying in the present. Seem easy, right? It’s not.
In today’s world most of us have been taken prisoner by what’s been dubbed ‘monkey mind’ rendering it near impossible for us to just focus on the here and now. So when mental distractions pop up during your connection time with your child, just notice them and then focus back on the beautiful little person in front of you.
Thanks to these easy to apply tips, connecting with your child should be easy and enjoyable, as opposed to intimidating and overwhelming. I assure you there is no better way to invest your time. Now go try a few of these suggestions and save yourself another bruise from any flying Matchbox cars headed your way!
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About Angela: Angela Pruess, LMFT, is a Child and Family Therapist and special needs parent on a mission to support and empower parents of behaviorally challenging kids. Over at parentswithconfidence.com, she wants to make life easier for you by decoding your child’s maddening behaviors, as well as their developmental and emotional needs. When she’s not supporting parents, or seeing kids in her private practice, she is at home being challenged (a lot) by her own three kids (and sometimes, her husband too!) Connect with Angela on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
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