BUILDING DAILY CONNECTIONS WITH YOUR CHILD
The desire to feel connected is wired into everyone’s brain. It is an emotional need we all crave. When you think about your own childhood, you may remember times you hold dearly. It could be fishing at the lake on a hot summer’s day, playing a board game, or gathering over mashed potatoes and baked chicken. It was during those moments that you felt present with and attuned to the people with whom you shared these activities. Likewise, to connect deeply with your child, you can implement a few daily habits that will help build and deepen the connection between you and her.
Here are these daily habits:
1. Start the day with a morning gratitude. Since mornings are a hassle for most parents as they try to get everyone up and out the door on time while children are often tired, grumpy, or preoccupied, it is then highly beneficial to take 2 to 3 minutes to focus on your child’s face and say something positive that can have a meaningful impact. For instance, you may say “Good morning sweetie, seeing your face makes me happy.” Giving attention, affection, and affirmation are the keys to start the day off on the right foot.
2. Set an afternoon gathering. After your child is done with school and/or her after school activities, organize a time where you spend quality time with her. This could be a tea time, a round of Uno, playing with a ball, or reading aloud a chapter from a book. What matters is to share a privileged time with your loved one.
3. Share a meal at the table. Family meals give a meaningful opportunity for family members to spend time together and enjoy one another’s company. It is the right time to encourage positive comments, adjust meal experiences to the family’s needs, and create a warm and relaxed setting in which emotional connection is prioritized.
4. Special time at bedtime. Take the time to spend about 10 minutes with your child every night before she goes to bed. If you truly listen to her, she will open up her heart and talk about personal topics. If you do not know how to start, you may try these questions “Tell me something good that happened today.” or “Is there anything you are worried about or want to ask?” or “Tell me one of your next dreams or goals.”
It doesn’t take a lot of time to connect deeply with our children. In just a few minutes at a time, several times throughout the day, we can bring our focus onto them and fill their cups with attention, affection, and affirmation that can affect their day in a positive way.
EMPOWERING YOUR CHILD TO BE SELF-SUFFICIENT
As a parent, you may have encountered numerous situations in which your child asks you to do something she can do herself. Your reaction might be to feel annoyed or irritated. All families deal with helplessness from time to time. However, when your child acts helpless daily, then it is time to change that dynamic. Helplessness is often associated with manipulating the parent for attention or power.
Here are a few strategies you can put in place:
1.Train your child to do the task all by herself. Take the necessary time to make sure your child knows how to do a specific task. Oftentimes, a specific skill needs to be reinforced over time. For instance, if you notice your child is having difficulties to put her shoes on, you may want to say something like “I have noticed you seem to have trouble putting your shoes on. Let’s take a few minutes to practice, so it will be easier tomorrow morning before going to school.” Train her on the how-to and role play it. Support your child in a gentle way and it will boost her self-confidence.
2. Set the expectations. As your child grows up, she is capable of mastering more refined skills. Discuss with her what her next tasks will be. For instance, say “Now that you are 5, do you think you can water the house plants?” Also, ask her what she thinks she can handle on her own and evaluate if it is feasible. If so, see how she can do it.
3. Walk away. If your child pulls the helpless card while you know she can do her task, remain calm and simply say “I am confident you can handle it. I will be in the kitchen (or another room) when you are done.”, and then walk away. The exit is essential as it helps to avoid the power struggle.
4. Include the When-Then in your talk. For instance, tell your child “When you get yourself dressed, then you can go outside and play for 20 minutes.” Using the When-Then structure makes the message clear and consistent, without any need for further discussion.
With practice and consistency on your part, your child will get the point that you will not jump through hoops at her whim and demand. In the end, your child will feel empowered as she will become more and more capable at managing her own tasks.
As a parent and a therapist, I want to offer some tips on how to raise happy and healthy kids. Please feel free to comment on my posts.