Connecting with our kids and teens can have a transformational effect on their moods, behaviour, the peace in our homes, and the way we experience parenting.
Why is connection so powerful? Because it makes us feel seen, heard, accepted, and loved - core components of wellbeing. Why is it so powerful when we, as parents, connect with our kids? Because it gives our kids a tangible sense of our unconditional support, reminds them they are safe and we are always on their team, and helps us truly know them as the people they are.
So how do we connect with our kids? Connecting with our kids is all about being with them in the moment, and focusing our full attention on them. This might be a big smile and a hug at pick up time (or when they get home if they’re teens), making eye contact and telling them how happy we are to see them.
Or it may be when we’re driving somewhere in the car and chatting about something they’re interested in, or what’s going on for them (older kids often feel more free to open up this way because it’s less intense when sitting next to us not having to make direct eye contact!).
Or at bedtime, when we remind them how much we love them, and that there’s nothing they can ever do to change that. Repeating things over and over imprints them in our kids minds and hearts, and creates a deep trust. I often use these moments of connection with my kids to remind them that I love them in every moment - when they’re feeling happy, sad, angry and everything in between. And also when I’m feeling happy, sad, angry and everything in between. This way if they do something they regret or feel bad about, they are more likely to tell me because they trust my love and support are there no matter what. And they also know that if I've lost my cool with them, or done something out of character, I still love them even in those moments.
There are also some bigger picture things we can do to help open more moments for connection:
* take an interest in their interests - without judging what it is they like, or needing to have an interest in it ourselves. It’s about giving them a chance to open up their world to us.
* open up our world to them - talk to them about our days, the things we enjoy, and why we enjoy them.
* spend one on one time together - it can be planned, like a milkshake or lunch ‘date’ with each child, or as simple as walking the dog together, or taking them along while you run a few errands so you get some time to catch up in the car.
* distraction free mealtimes - family meals with the tv off and no other distractions, are such a great opportunity for connection because everyone is sitting together in one place. We can take this chance to actively ask questions, and share things ourselves, or just be present in the moment with our kids and let the connection unfold naturally as we're eating together.
For younger kids, you’ll find questions for connection on every page of the Grow Journal, and you can keep a copy of the Journal at the dinner table so you can use them as inspiration. The questions are deliberately open ended, and light and fun to create connection in a relaxed way, whilst also getting to learn about what each other thinks and feels.
It's great to know that experiencing connection with our kids is as much (maybe even more) about how we are feeling, and that we are intentionally focusing on them, as much as it is about what we're doing. In that sense, there's so much opportunity to explore what helps us feel connected to our kids.
Lots of connection is what builds trust, nutures both our kids and ourselves, and brings feelings of joy, love, and affection into our relationships with our kids.