4 Ways to Help Connect with Your Child
Jan 24, 2023
The relationship between you and your child is an invaluable tool. Are you looking for ideas on how to spend simple, joyful time with your child? Here are 4 ways to help you to enter your child's world and fuel them with connection.
1. Being present is an action.
Have “special time” with your child. This is set period (10 minutes or whatever you can manage) of uninterrupted quality time. This time should be given a name, your child chooses the activity, and you follow her lead. Make sure your child has your undivided attention (screen free and one parent per child). If your child can communicate the activity she wants, great. If not, observe what she is doing in that moment and join in. When in doubt, just sit next to her and start doing exactly what she is doing. Maybe if you paused for a moment, she’d look up, expecting you to keep going. This is a great “back and forth”. You both roll a car, you playfully stop rolling yours, she looks up with anticipation, you start rolling again! This isn’t a time for following directions, teaching, formal instruction, or assessment of any kind. If you have a sense of joy , your child likely does too, and that means you’re doing it “right”.
2. Watch, wait, and listen.
There is a tendency to ask questions and narrate. This is especially true of well meaning adults who are trying to encourage verbal language and social interaction. Children often need time and space to process our words and to organize their ideas. Count to 8 before rewording a question or calling her name for the second time. Try getting your point across using fewer words; more body language, gestures, and affect. Removing some of our own verbal language often yields surprising results in our children. Remember that communication comes in many forms. Susan Cain, famous author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking says "There's zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas." Our kids have great ideas. With patient observation and time, we will understand what they are trying to say.
3. Do something new.
Say something new, sit somewhere new, bring something new to the room. Brain scientists have found that novel stimuli promotes learning and releases dopamine. To register a little ones attention, I change my tone, affect, volume, speed, and body positioning. Going from speaking to singing, putting my sock on my arm instead of my foot, or trying to eat from a cup. The playful, unexpected, and appropriately timed, move is a great way to connect. Change something up and you could be surprised with the outcomes.
4. Find moments in the day-to-day.
There are opportunities to connect everywhere; have fun with getting dressed, riding the elevator, bed time, or walking to school. A great way to build a habit is it to attach something new to something already established (Highly recommend Atomic Habits by James Clear). If you’re going to be riding the elevator anyway, you can turn your hand into a character who pushes the elevator button slowly like a turtle, or crawls the wall like a spider. (Very important to use affect; play with inflection, sing, or whisper then shout for a touch of anticipation). With some creativity, the options are endless. It gives you a quick chance to connect, adding some joy to the mundane while presenting your little one with something novel (see number 3).