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.

Special Time Can Take The Edge Off Sibling Rivalry!

Kiran Gaind The Connected Family Special-Time-timer-900x851

Do you find that your  angel children often act like devils when they start fighting with each other over what seems to you like the silliest things?  In Siblings Without Rivalry, the authors discuss the roots of the constant tension often present between siblings:  their need for individual connection to their parents and their desire to be known and seen for their uniqueness. When you sit and plan your week, one tool to start adding to your parenting toolkit is Special Time.  It's designed to create and foster an intimate connection with each individual child.  All you need is 15-30 minutes, at least 3 times per week.  When you carve this time out, you simply tell your child "We're going to have some Special Time" and you explain that during Special Time, your child gets to do whatever he/she wants to do and that you will simply give all your attention and do whatever he/she wants you to do.  This gives the child back the power he/she needs to feel confident and often loses throughout his/her day as a child living in an adult world.  You put away any distractions - no phone, no computer, no cooking, no side conversation with the sibling or partner.  You give ALL your loving, focused, undistracted, warm attention to your one child for this period of Special Time.  Set a timer for the time you have (15-30 minutes).  This helps the child know that Special Time is different from regular time and helps set clear expectations.

During Special Time, you let go of control or influence over this time and let your child lead the way.  You watch with your full, focused love and warmth as your child starts a game, runs and wants you to chase, pulls out the dolls or trucks, sings, dances, jumps, and you see how he/she wants you to participate.  You let go of control.  You can have limits around how this time is spent.  I do not allow screens or sugar during this time.  And just enjoy taking in the beauty and awesomeness that is your unique child.  And he/she feels this love and warmth and awe and takes it in fully.  This practice fills the emotional and neurological needs of your child so fully that when you've been doing it regularly, you will notice changes in his/her cooperation and sense of ease throughout your days together.  And if each child is receiving this Special Time regularly, you will see a decrease in sibling rivalry because their individual needs for connection and recognition will be met so fully!  YES!

If you have certain times of day that are most challenging, try inserting some space for Special Time before those times (the morning routine, a meal, bath, bed, when sibling comes home from school, etc.).  When the off track behaviors occur, that is your child's brain signaling a need for connection, which is well met and nourished using Special Time.

You can start using Special Time with children of any age.  When they are babies or too young for verbal interaction, you can take a stance of observation instead of forced interaction or teaching.  Let the child's curiosity and interest lead the way.  When a child is older and "Special Time" is not a fun or cool enough name, let the kid name it.  My daughter started calling it Birthday Time or Science Time and I've heard of teenagers calling it Hangout Time or perhaps it becomes centered around Baseball or Basketball or Nature.  Let it evolve and let your child have control over it.

Enjoy this sacred time with your children and the amazing results and benefits that it brings!

If you would like to learn more about this and other useful, practical, neuroscientifically-based parenting practices, check out my 6 week Connected Parenting classes which are offered throughout the year from September- May in a call-in video format on Tuesday evenings from 8-10pm so parents do not need to find a sitter or leave their kids in order to learn practices which improve the whole parenting experience and family dynamic.  You can find out more by visiting http://theconnectedfamily.net/services/connected-parenting-6-week-class/.

Tantrum Taming 101

Toddler throwing a tantrum

Is your toddler starting to tantrum at the most inopportune moments?  Have you been feeling that your once angelic baby is turning into some kind of demon? I remember lamenting my child's transition to toddlerhood until I found a few amazing parenting tools which now make me feel secure and confident in preventing as well as responding to the inevitable tantrum.

First off, it's important to remember what is happening in a child's brain when a tantrum occurs.  The lymbic system, or ground floor of the brain, is its most foundational and primitive part.  The prefrontal cortex, or Director/Thinker of the brain, develops after this more foundational limbic portion, and is dependent for optimal development upon the limbic brain's needs being met.

What is the biggest need of a child's limbic, or emotional, brain?  CONNECTION.  When a child feels connected to his or her caregiver, chances are, tantrums will not occur as often or with as much force.  A tantrum is, afterall, just a child's reaction to a loss of connection, in many ways an attempt to re-establish a strong sense of connection.

What does that mean for parents and caregivers?  Put simply, if you want to prevent or respond appropriately to tantrums, it is all about establishing, maintaining and nurturing a strong connection with your child.

One of the practices I teach in my Parenting by Connection classes, and practice nearly daily with my children, is called Special Time.  I use my phone timer and set it for 10-40 minutes.  I put the phone on a high shelf, out of sight.  We commit to no technology or distractions during this time.  Then I ask my child, "We can do anything (no screens, no sweets) you want to do - what would you like to do for Special Time?"  Then I follow her lead.  She is the one coming up with all the play ideas, and I ask her to tell me what she would like for me to do.  While this Special Time and play is happening, I give her my full attention, warmth, and use this as  a sacred space and time to be completely present, in awe of and loving my child.  If you practice this regularly with your child, and especially before difficult transitions or times of day (like morning routine, meal times, bed times, etc), you will notice more cooperation, ease and emotional regulation with your child.

If after you start using this tool you notice a time when tantrums start happening more and more, I suggest you consider the tantrums to be an indicator that your child needs more connection.  When tantrums do occur, it is best to get low and get close, so that the connection that the limbic brain is searching for is met.  Once the connection is reestablished, Staylisten through big feelings by being sure your child is safe, holding her and allowing her to emote.  While this is not considered to be the easiest way to respond to a tantrum, research and experience shows that it is the most effective for children of any age.  Their brain's need for connection is maintained and their emotions run their course.  The child returns to clarity and calm once the emotional storm is allowed to pass in safety and security.

Old school methods of responding to tantrums with time outs, punishments, commands to stop crying are increasingly being refuted with brain and emotional research.  When a child tantrums, he or she needs to release the tensions created by connections not remaining strong.  Telling a child to stop it, isolating him in time out or punishing him sends the message that 1)emotions are wrong 2) he can deal with his life and feelings alone and 3)he should be ashamed of what he feels.  Our methods of responding to our children's biggest feelings really do teach them what those emotions mean and how we value them.

So the next time a tantrum presents itself, try to remember these tips.  A tantrum and is an opportunity to practice understanding, patience, compassion and ultimately, to reestablish and nurture your parent-child connection.

Becoming a Second Time Parent

Are you conteIMG_5127mplating the important question of whether to bring another child into your family? I went through the transition to second-time motherhood one year ago this month. Being a mom to two girls under 4 for the past 12 months has been amazing and challenging. I always thought if I had two kids I would have them very close together, as I am a twin. I finally felt ready to think about another child when my older daughter turned 2 and I turned 39. The clock was ticking louder than ever. So we started trying and it took a little longer the second time, but we conceived after about 4 months. We were glad they would be three years apart—good spacing for many reasons.

Being seasoned parents, we wanted to be really prepared for No. 2. First, we moved from San Francisco to Palo Alto for access to great schools as well as proximity to work and a good community of friends with kids. Our new house was a block from a park.

We also made many other changes to streamline our life as a family. For example, my husband started putting the older one to bed, and I prepared to spend many hours during the night nursing and comforting. I also spent lots of precious alone time with our older daughter—which would never return again after the arrival of her sibling—and prepared her for the huge change and even bigger blessing that was going to arrive with the new baby in her life.

Even with all of this preparation, many of the realities of bringing baby home and truly transforming into a family of four were challenging: Now I had the baby in tow with me everywhere. I constantly barked at my older daughter to keep it down and not wake the baby. I was so exhausted from sleep deprivation that I had a short fuse. I also missed spending time with my older daughter. And she missed it, too, and felt sad when I snapped at her. The baby was beautiful, but she just lay there, ate and slept. It was tough on so many levels. It took a good nine months for me to get my bearings.

Now that the baby is 10.5 months, we have figured a lot of this out and enjoy our current state as a family of four. If you’re considering your own No. 2, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Accept that until the baby is 4 months old, you will be doing a lot of parallel parenting. Dad will be with the older sibling, and you will be with the baby. It will feel like you have a split-up family, and you will feel even more like you have no relationship with your spouse. This is temporary and necessary. Dig in, and do what you have to do to get through those first several months.
  • Create some special time with your older child so that they will receive one-on-one time with each parent during the week—even just 10 minutes. The older child needs to connect with each parent, especially the mom who is ALWAYS with the baby. When the baby goes down for a nap or if someone can take the baby for a little while, take the older child out. It can be to eat a snack, read a book, go to the park or do Special Time. The last one is a technique taught by Hand in Hand Parenting: Set a timer for any amount of time between 10 and 60 minutes, tell your child, “we can do ANYTHING you want to do” and let him or her lead the special time session. You give all your attention (no phones or other distractions) and just play along with what the child wants to do. It will fill his or her need for attention like nothing else and help him or her with the difficult feelings of sharing you with the new baby.

 

  • If you haven’t already put your older child in preschool, do so and consider extending how much time he or she is in school so that this child is entertained, well cared for and stimulated during the difficult months when you have to give your all to the new baby.
  • Get as much help as you possibly can. If you don’t have help from a family member or friend, bring a babysitter or nanny into your household mix as early as you can. There will be times when you want a sitter to be with the baby so you can spend time with your older child. You may need time to do some self-care, as you will be exhausted. Or maybe you will want help with cleaning. Whatever you need, this is the time to be liberal with getting help with all kinds of tasks and duties as it will take several months for you to get into a rhythm with two kids. It can get expensive in the spending department, but remind yourself that it is temporary and an investment in your emotional well-being to have help around your home.
  • Join or create a second-time moms group. DayOne has a wonderful class that meets for 4-week sessions on Tuesday mornings. It’s a place where new second-time moms come to talk about what is really going on, commiserate and generate ideas for support. I created a Second Time Moms playgroup for kids born spring–summer 2012 through PAMP. It has been nice to meet with moms who were all going through the same things at around the same time and to get out of the house and get some fresh air.

Kiran Gaind is a PAMP staff writer and owner of The Connected Family, a boutique coaching practice for modern parents. Drop her a line at kiran@theconnectedfamily.net.