Today’s post is a how-to guide to help you feel really connected with your child.
Maybe you’re already trying to prioritise one-to-one connecting time with your child, but you’re finding that it’s not making the difference… because at other times you’re finding you’re feeling disconnected – and you’re wondering why that is.
So how can you stay connected?
Watch the video or scroll down to read more…
Today I’m giving you 10 tips for how to connect with your child. 10 things that you can actually go away and do.
#1 – Celebrate your child!
Celebrate who your child actually is. Even if there are behaviours, like rudeness, that you’re not enjoying right now, there’s always a lot to celebrate about who they are.
Supposing they’re very boisterous – you can celebrate inwardly the energy that they have. If, on the other hand, they’re very chilled, you can celebrate inwardly how relaxed they are as a being. It will help you develop an acceptance and allowance of who they are. Celebrating their existence and the type of energy that they have is really, really important. It helps you to respectfully allow them to be as they are, which is a precondition for connection.
#2 – Get curious
Get curious about the reasons for the behaviours you find difficult. But beware! Don’t start asking loads of questions, because that can be very disconnecting. Instead, get curious in your imagination about why your child might be behaving this way. If their behaviour were a language, what would they be telling you?
This will help you to feel more connected and respond to them in a more connected way. Trust that you do know, deep down, why they’re behaving like that – and you will find the answer.
#3 – Acknowledge
Acknowledge your child’s point of view – empathise with them. This is about expressing that you understand and share your child’s feelings. When you do that, it really touches children. It helps them feel as if you see them, you understand them, you support them and you acknowledge them, even if you don’t agree with them.
This is actually a deeply mature act because it involves putting your point of view aside, in order to make space for theirs.
And the gift of it is that when you do this, your child learns to do it for others. My 16 year old will sometimes say to me, if I moan about my to-do list, or something similar, “That sounds really hard,” in a very sweet way.
But you don’t need to wait until they’re 16. I worked with a mum who, after our first call, started empathising with her three-year-old – and by the afternoon of the same day, he was already expressing empathy to his two-year-old brother. Children often respond really fast.
#4 – Satisfy a need with imagination
If your child wants something that you cannot or won’t give to them – say a mobile phone or a particular toy – give it to them in fantasy. Give them what they want by simply talking about it.
I remember I had a client whose son liked these rather ugly action figures, and she didn’t want to get him one. He somehow managed to get hold of a catalogue where all these figures were. She didn’t even like him looking in it.
I advised her to spend time with him, looking at the catalogue and talking about what fun he would have with these figures – what he would do with them if he had them. So she gave him those figures in his fantasy – in his imagination. And this helped with the way he felt about the situation, so he stopped going on about the figures so much.
#5 – Avoid making your child feel wrong
Okay, this is really important. If you want to connect deeply with your child, avoid using words like ‘unacceptable’, or using punishments that make your child feel wrong. Because when your child feels bad, they disconnect, not only from you, but from themselves. They feel wrong inside.
Instead, express what you want from them. You may need to set a limit but you don’t need to do it in a punitive way. Or in a way that makes your child feel wrong. That’s the difference.
#6 – Initiate connected conversations
When things have gone wrong in the family, or there’s an issue that needs resolving, you need connected conversations. Often, when I suggest this, parents say to me, “But when I try to talk to him about his behaviour, he just switches off – he won’t talk to me.”
And here’s the reason: I find parents often start these type of conversations by saying, for example, “I’d like to have a conversation with you about the way you shouted at me earlier.”
Any child who hears an opener like that is going to shut down! Instead you need to start that conversation by using Tip #3 – acknowledging their point of view.
“I’ve been wondering if you felt unfairly judged [or disappointed or hurt] when I snapped at you earlier…” and carry on acknowledging, as a way into the conversation.
Talk *a lot* about their feelings and their point of view and then you’ll have a much more successful, connecting conversation.
#7 – Use humour
I remember the time in Devon when we were climbing up a steep hill and my then four-year-old got really left behind and he’d slowed down to a stop. No amount of persuading or shouting could make him catch up with us.
Suddenly I had the inspiration to pluck a leaf from the hedgerow and stick it up my nose. I called to him, “I’ve got a strawberry plant growing up my nose – come and see!” And then he ran up the hill!
Humour is a great connector. If you’re stuck for humorous ideas, just use a little squeaky voice, make some funny noises, pull some funny faces or do some funny walks. That lightens the atmosphere and really helps you connect with children. It’s their element.
#8 – Have fun together
Do things with your child that you both enjoy. I remember I used to do a lot of painting with my son, because I liked painting, but actually he didn’t really enjoy it. It wasn’t a very connecting activity. So, to connect with your child do things that you both enjoy.
Nowadays my son and I enjoy going for walks and going out to eat together. So these are our ways of having fun.
Find things that are fun for you and your child, and do them.
#9 – One-to-one time
Make timetables for your family so that each of you, if you’re parenting with a partner, can spend one-to-one time with each child. You may not be able to do this every day, every week even, but timetable it in. This kind of time together has been called different things by different experts. I love the name Love Bombing, coined by psychologist Oliver James.
The heart of this time is that you have no agenda for it – you are fully available and able to go with the flow of what your child wants to do. This is very connecting and nurturing. It makes your child feel really important, as well as seen, heard and loved.
#10 – Look after your own needs
This isn’t strictly a tip for connecting but it underpins everything. It’s vitally important because, as I said earlier, it’s quite a mature step to make your child’s needs and their point of view more important than your own. You can only do it if your cup is full. If your cup is empty, you just can’t.
I know I say this often. I really want you to hear this message.
What are you going to do this week to look after yourself?
Even if it’s just an early night. I did that last night. I connected to myself to listen to what I needed. I was so tired. I needed to go to bed – it was as simple as that.
I know it’s not always easy, when you’ve got young children, to go to bed when you feel like going to bed. If you’re in that situation, make a plan with your partner or with friends so that you can meet your needs for rest and play.
Finally, I’d like to reassure you that you know your child so well. You are so deeply, deeply connected. It’s really about activating that connection. It’s about activating that connection in these ways so that you both feel connected and start bringing out the best in each other!
And if you want some personalised help, maybe to find out what’s getting in the way of you and your child connecting, then do take advantage of one of the few complimentary calls that I make available every month.
On these calls you get to be heard, and we get to shine a light on what’s happening in that sacred space between you and your child. And you’ll come to realisations, new ideas and understandings.
There’s no obligation to work with me after that. But if we are a good fit, I’ll be more than happy to tell you how that works and what you can expect to be different afterwards – how you can expect your life to look after you’ve done a piece of work like that.
If you’re curious, do book in with me. I’d be delighted to help you move forward with better connection.
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