We all know connection is key to relationships. Whether we are stay-at-home parents or working parents, the hustle and bustle of day to day living can erode our connection with our children. When they are not in our presence, they orient themselves to other people, places, and things. In the article “Staying Connected With Your Child,” Dr. Laura Markham, Ph.D. offers some great tips to reorient them to “planet family” and stay connected to them.
When children are not in our presence, they orient themselves to others or other ideas. This can include daycare providers, teachers, friends, and/or pop culture, electronics, etc. If we want to be the principle influence in their lives and parent well, Markham states we need a good connection. Otherwise, we may be headed for behavioral issues. She encourages us to think of connections and connecting as preventive maintenance.
Markham offers the following suggestions to connect to our children:
- Place a premium on relationships in our family. If you place value on connecting with your children, your children will place value on it as well.
- Acknowledge relationship and separation: It may seem self-evident, but it is important to greet and say good-bye to our children in their presence. These acts are like the bookends in connection.
- When you reconnect, consciously refocus your attention. It may be tempting to pick up your cell phone when your child walks on the door. It may be hard to not check your Facebook status or avert your eyes from what you are watching on television. You may find it hard not to dwell on the meeting you just left , or the fact that you don’t know what’s for dinner yet. But Markham states that those first few minutes of reconnecting are key and to do it right, you need to put other things completely aside.
- Until you reconnect, keep distractions to a minimum. Along with what was just said, focus on your child-not your phone, not the television, not the ten other things on your to-do list. For your children, encourage them to reconnect upon returning home. If they come back from a sleep-over, insist they spend time with their family before calling up or texting a friend. Parents, wait to have company until you have connected with your arriving child.
- Attune to your child’s mood. Markham states that to truly connect, parents need to acclimate to their child’s mood. If your child is in a serious mood, become serious with them. If your child is silly, become silly with them. This helps reconnection occur quickly.
- Connect on their level. For parents of toddlers and preschooler, reconnecting on their level means literally getting down to their level and have eye-to-eye contact with them. For older children, this means being in the same room with them.
- Floor time. Just as we made “floor time,” an important part of our time with our children as babies, Markham says “floor time,” is needed at every age. During this time, our only goal should be to be completely present with our children for a snuggle and talk. This is quality time, not to be used for directing or shuffling them off to somewhere, but listening to what’s on their hearts and mind.
- Welcome your child’s babyself: Your little person may behave wonderfully at daycare or school, only to “lose it,” upon seeing you. See these emotions for what they are. Your child has been brave enough to get through the demands of the day. In our comfortable presence, they feel free to let down their guard. When the emotions flow like this, hug them, scoop them up, snuggle with them, and let them be their “baby self,” so we can guide them, teach them, and simply be with them.
- Remember the five to one ratio. Markham reminds us for every poor interaction we have with our children, we need five positive ones to connect with them and sustain a positive relationship. Let the numbers speak and seek to positively connect with your child all the time.
- Do repair work along with preventative maintenance. Markham says if we are not our children’s supportive base, they will probably seek this from their peers. I f we want our children to have us as their base, we may need to repair it. Maybe you have no idea how to connect with your children or time and daily stressors have left your relationship frayed. By making a conscious effort to address the stress and disrepair, start anew; and connect and reconnect with our children, we can go miles in having a great relationship with our children. Markham’s website is a great place for tips on how this subject, and many other important parenting ones.