Healing happens in relationships. Right brain to right brain. With all the hustle and bustle of everyday life it can be a challenge to stop, take a breath, and enjoy one another. There is so much pressure for parents and caregivers to have a clean house, get dinner on the table, cart kids where they need to go, and regulate themselves that there is often little time left over for anything else.
The importance of family bonding time, just enjoying one another, is why I often try to meet parents and caregivers where they are at to help support them in creating this quality time with children. Relationships also happen in the tiny miniature moments in the every day...all those little moments add up to big, meaningful, and strong relationships.
Okay but back to the everyday stuff - you know, the practices, play dates, grocery shopping, meals on the table....when exactly is there time for bonding? Families are busy enough as it is! I know I often hear this in my practice and experience it in my own life. I wanted to share some of the little ways parents and caregivers can find meaningful connection with their children while doing life.
First what we know is that a habit is easier to create when you pair it with an existing habit. Hope is not a strategy. I promise if families (ahhhem adults) are not planning for connection time they will not be able to show up as the best version of themselves that they would like to be in their relationships with their children.
So, what does that mean for families? Find a time where you are naturally in the same space as your child and add on a connection habit. Some favorite times include on the drive to school, the drive home, at dinner time, or right as a child is going to bed.
It is best when connecting a parent or guardian's main priority is their child. No listening to the important story on the radio or the news OR scrolling your phone AND trying to connect at the same time. One of the biggest complaints from parents is how young people are glued to media. Well....sometimes young people say the same thing about parents and guardians too. However, one of the benefits of connecting in the car, is that sometimes watching the road can be just enough of a distraction to make young people's defenses come down and really open up.
So some basics, although I feel it is important to note, are those classic connecting skills. The ones we learn as therapists and can teach to parents and guardians. You know, eye contact, paraphrasing, identifying feelings, having empathy, making sure your nonverbals as communicating understanding, asking open ended questions.
Okay, now that parents and guardians have the time down for when they will connect, some basic connection skills, WHAT the heck do they do to create connection? Most of the time the question of "how was your day?" falls flat with a "good" and a shrug. Or worse yet - the sigh and eye roll.
Below is a list of my favorite questions, comments, and rituals to create connection in those little moments of everyday:
I hope you have some new ideas to share with the parents, guardians, and families that you work with! What are your favorite connecting questions? Drop a comment below!
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I'm Ann Meehan, an LPCC, RPT-S, and EMDR Consultant. I help other therapists grow in their passions as play therapists, trauma therapists,and child and adolescent therapists.