Pit stops, give way signs, stop signs, intersections…all moments of pause as you move down a road, a path, a track…pulling you towards a destination.
Think of this as a metaphor for parenting…the road entails the daily tasks, movements, duties, roles and responsibilities it takes to raise a child (the feeding, the toileting, the changing, the playing, the talking, the cleaning, the tidying…and the list goes on).
The pit stops, the stop signs, the traffic lights, the intersections, the giveaway signs…these are the pauses, the critical points of a path that are essential. These are the parts I am referring to as ‘points of connection’.
For our children, these ‘points of connection’ are the moments that matter, the moments that determine, how they feel, and therefore how they behave.
For us, parents and carers, these are the opportunities, gifted to us, to connect with our children. The natural pauses of the day, the ones that we often zoom through without truly even looking up.
Following a recent blog post titled ‘majic wand of parenting’ I received some feedback, which aligns with feedback often received when the same idea is presented during therapy. Questions around how on earth, in an already jam packed day, a parent could be expected to squeeze in another ten minutes, per child, of uninterrupted PLAY.
Its true, the logistics of this is hard. All adjustments to routine can be hard. But, in this case, when it comes to fuelling connection, are ever so worth it.
Anyhoo… this post is to compliment the post mentioned above. This post sends the same message ‘connection is the key to parenting’. But offers a different way of finding opportunity to be present, to connect, to nurture our relationships with our children.
A recent article (The Dangers of Distracted Parenting by Erika Christakis, The Atlantic, July/August 2018) suggested that due to phenomenems such as busy modern life and use of devices, adults often suffer from a condition called ‘continuous partial attention’. Meaning, parents are constantly present in their children’s lives physically, but they are less emotionally attuned. I guess suggesting that a lot of the time, we aren’t looking up, engaging with our environment and the people in it, our children.
A child’s development is relational, and reliant on what is known as a ‘cuing system’ between child and adult, one in which is often interrupted and non existent due to…. distraction. It’s important to reflect that it is not often parents intentions to parent in a way that takes away from the quality of parent child connection, but is it pertinent to know its impacts, nonetheless. Or at the very least to redefine, remind, highlight ways to ‘up the ante’ so to speak…
Of course, its reasonable to expect that parents cannot be fully present 100% of the time, and it may be so that occasional parental inattention is ok, and may open opportunity for children to build resilience and independence. But chronic distraction, can impede a child’s development significantly.
Here in lies…‘points of connection’.
These are the moments which naturally open up wonderful opportunities for connection, relation and interaction…they don’t require you to change your routine, introduce new strategies, or trial a different way of parenting…all they do is offer you a moment to pause, to look up, to connect. A moment of intentionality.
Often these ‘points of connection’ are the moments we move through quickly, absent mindedly, busily…I find myself pushing back against the urge to get busy engaging in adult focused tasks during some of these moments…because well, let’s face it, when your child is still/busy occupied, its an easy exit.
The moments that I’m talking about are…
- Meal Time …are you washing the dishes? or have you taken the opportunity to stop, to sit at your child’s level, engaging in eye contact, talking about the day ahead, or the day past.
- Bath Time…are you frantically tidying the bathroom, running in and out? or are you sitting by the bath, singing songs and reflecting on the play that is being engaged in.
- Dress Time…are you dressing in a hurry, thinking ten steps ahead, hurrying your child along? or are you talking mindfully as you move, engaging your child in the process.
- Travel Time…do you mindlessly and automatically put your child in their seat as they resist and oppose, or do you look them in the eye, talking them through what is going to happen next. Do you use the drive time to make calls, listen to pod casts, think about the shopping list that needs to be attended too? or engage in sing alongs.
- Play Time…when your child is happily playing, independently (say what?!?!), do you get busy…tackle the washing, open up the lap top, scroll through social media? or do you sit close by and watch reflecting on what you are seeing, request to join the play, or offer reflections of delight and encouragement.
Of course, it would be unrealistic to think that we parents take up every opportunity to connect with our child, over, other adult demands placed upon us…what I’m merely suggesting is, sometimes, making it a conscious decision, and intentional action, not an automatic way of being could help us steer away from falling into a world of distraction and disconnection.
Daily habits to strengthen connection with your child (Motherly, Dr Laura Markham) is another wonderfully practical article that offers suggestions on how to build on connection between child and parent. She mentions a formula which I try to remain mindful of….and it recommends that for every interaction that is tense or conflictual in nature…it has to be balanced with five positive interactions…to remain emotionally connected to children. She also outlines ten ‘habits’ that can really shape your relationship with your child…enhancing and nurturing connection…
- Aim for 12 hugs or physical connections a day
- Turn of technology and interact with your child
- Connect before transitions
- Make time for one on one time
- Welcome emotion
- Listen and empathize
- Slow down and savor the moment
- Bedtime snuggle and chat
- Show Up
Parenting is a tough gig, the toughest of all if you ask me…and there is no realistic expectation which states we should be getting it right all of the time. Some days, meeting the basic physical and emotional needs of our children is ‘good enough’. But, if we are going to make conscious effort, this is where our attention needs to be streamed…connection.