Top 7 Ways to Connect With Your Child in a Disconnected World

We love our children and value connection with them, but we lead busy lives inundated by modern technology.   We’re constantly connected to things outside of the home.   It's too easy to lose connection with your most valued relationships as you quickly answer "one more email,” text a friend, post a quick update on Facebook or zone out on a Netflix binge.  The great news is that there are many simple ways to reconnect and develop long lasting, loving connections with your children (and you don't have to give up your phone!).  Here are the top 7 ways to connect with your child in a disconnected world:

1.)   Play Physically

Chasing our kids around the house, giving them a chariot ride on a blanket, giving them a horsey or piggy back ride, playing their favorite sport full out with them:  all of these playful, physically active ways of engaging with our kids boosts them emotionally and deepens our connection with them.

2.)   Listen to Feelings

To help our children develop a healthy relationship to their feelings, listen to all of them, even when they’re crying and tantruming.   Let them know you are there, hold them, rock them, and let them emote.  Don’t try to fix or stop their feelings.  Accept them and be there to witness them.

3.)   Do Special Time Regularly

Your child’s limbic brain thrives off uninterrupted, warm, loving one-on-one special time with you.  Set a timer for 15-60 minutes and announce you will be doing Special Time (you can call it something cooler for the older tween and teen set).  Say “We’re going to do special time.  We can do anything you want to do!”  And then give them your undivided, warm, loving attention.  Enjoy noticing your child and how wonderful he or she is.  Avoid the urge to suggest or direct and follow your child’s lead.  This is a deeply nourishing and connecting practice for both parent and child and will become a cornerstone of your parenting for years to come.

4.)   Stay Connected to Yourself

Instead of using social media to numb out or tune out from yourself and your actual life, put the phones and screens away for 30 minutes per day to actively connect with yourself.  This can include meditation, journaling, painting, writing stories, yoga, a walk in nature.  Take some time everyday to let your thoughts and worries go, to purposefully get away from screens, and tune back into who you really are.  The more you do this, the more available you are to tune in to your kids.

5.)   Make Eye Contact

It’s easy in the hustle bustle of our hectic days between drop offs, work, activities, pick ups, to not slow down enough to look people in the eye.  Children especially thrive off of the emotional connection that is fostered through eye contact.  Every chance you can, whenever you speak with your child, remember to make eye contact.  This helps build your connection and keep it strong.

6.)   Talk Thoughtfully About the Big Questions

Does your 4 year old already want to know where babies come from?  Is your 8 year old struggling to understand her grandparent’s death? As parents, these early curiosities related to life’s biggest and often toughest topics can seem too heavy and scary to address. Talk with your partner and decide what are the top 3 things you hope your child learns about this tough topic in their lifetime.  Then speak to those things.  Do you hope they know sex happens when two people love each other?  Then emphasize that people who love each other make babies (and you can reserve the sex-ed details for when they are older).  Do you want them to understand that even though someone dies, their influence lives on in the people they love?  Then talk about that to help bring peace and perspective.  The point is, don’t completely avoid these topics or assume kids can’t handle them or that they don’t want to hear from you.  They NEED to hear from you and base their own internal compass on yours.  Drop in to your own values and beliefs and teach from there, gently, and thoughtfully.  It will deepen your connection.

7.)    Tell Stories About Your Own Life

Kids want to know what it was like for you to do the things they are learning to do and figure out.  Tell as many stories as you can about your own upbringing and childhood.  Your kids should know who your grandparents were, where you went to school and how you got there, your favorite teacher, when you learned to ride a bike, when your first crush was and on who, who took you to your first dance, where you vacationed with your family, the books you loved as a child, how your friends were at various ages, their names, etc.  All these details help your child to feel close to you and to make choices in their own lives.

Kiran Gaind is a mom to two young girls and owns The Connected Family, a boutique life, leadership and parenting coaching practice for modern parents.  She teaches 6 Week Call-In Connected Parenting classes, offers private coaching packages, gives talks at schools and companies, provides webinars and writes a blog and email newsletter.  She is available for a free consultation (call 650-308-9425) to help you discover how connection can change your family and your life.

You Can Be the Parent You Want to Be

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Parents today struggle to be present with ourselves and our kids as our 24-hour connectedness to technology and work often pull our attention away from the present moment. Our children feel this distractedness and act in ways to pull our attention back to the present moment, to them, to meet their developmental needs. Our children's cries, tantrums, yelling to get our attention back to the present moment and to them can feel grating on our nerves. We have been taught to interpret these signals for our presence and attention as something to get rid of, to shut down, to punish. Add to that the intense pace of life which leaves little room to be aware of the present moment and before you know it, parents are yelling, dismissing, disengaging from the opportunity that these behaviors are actually giving us to re-connect with our children in a patient, present and positive way.

Children haven't changed much over the ages: their brains, bodies and hearts still need what they have always needed. What has changed is the way we live, what society expects of parents, and the pacing of life, all of which conspire to make parents overwhelmed, stressed and reactive.

What if there were another way to do this parenting thing? What if we could liberate ourselves from this reactive way of life and choose to parent from a place of patience, presence and positivity? Imagine a time when you child's behavior grated on you and you reacted. Now imagine instead of that response, you had learned the skills to respond with patience, presence and positivity. Stop and imagine what that would feel like. In your body, what would the sensations be with this new way of being? How would your facial expression change? What words would you speak? How would you feel differently about your child and his/her needs?

When I discovered the connected parenting and mindfulness tools that I teach, I viscerally felt lighter and I started to live and parent from a more authentic place that felt right to me. These tools and practices empowered me to let go of the messages swirling around me from the outside to move faster, expect more, schedule more and more, to curate this ideal, "perfect" child in response to some pervasive modern parenting fears.

What I embraced instead what the actual child standing in front of me, her strengths, her personality, her wants and desires. And in embracing her, I embraced myself. I started to really celebrate myself for who I am, shedding layers and layers of who I thought I was supposed to be. Talk about freeing! Ultimately, the invitation our young beings offer us, their parents, from the moment they are born is that by unconditionally loving them, they teach us to unconditionally love ourselves and all other beings. Thank you, dear child, for this gift :-).

I work with parents who are in all kinds of situations: parents who are overwhelmed by their to do lists and are not enjoying life or parenting much at all, parents who are so connected to their work they find it hard to find the time to connect to parenting, parents who have changed careers and are still defining their post-child identities, parents who are finding it tough to communicate with loved ones without yelling, parents who are feeling isolated and lonely and want to find that village that will raise their child they always hear people talking about, parents who are confused about what good parenting looks like because they weren't parented that way, parents who want to add a few more tools to their tool kits to be the best parents they can be, and parents who are looking to join with other likeminded parents to have more fun, create more community and redefine the current parenting paradigm on their own, more freeing terms.

Please call me today at (650) 308-9425 or email me at kiran@theconnectedfamily.net so we can talk about your authentic vision of parenting and together, create a plan of action for you to realize it. You can be the parent you want to be and I will be the biggest supporter on your journey.