Ep14 – Connecting with kids
What we do together
It may sound obvious, but we need to spend time with our child so we can model and connect. Over-scheduling and multitasking can be barriers to this connection. I like to call the minutes and hours we spend engaged in this mind to mind connection ‘connection time.’ How much connection time do you have with your child, and how much are you planning to have in the future?
- Effective parenting requires time.
- Spend time with your children together as a family.
- Avoid over-scheduling activities for your children.
This means if we want to do this nurturing stuff we have to put in the hours to make it happen. Just hanging out, sharing meals together, being there for your kids, talking to them, playing with them, reading to them, laughing with them. Sorting the laundry out together, going camping, fixing something in the shed, going on a bike ride, going to the shops together: the list is endless, but kids require quantity as well as the variety. We should aim to properly connect with our children every day we possibly can.
It’s through these repeated opportunities that we can model, guide and teach. It’s during these hours we spend together that we can awaken the natural abilities within our child. It’s when we teach them how to relate to people, to deal with the world and to approach problems successfully.
The modern world, however, is not naturally conducive to this. Rush, rush, rush. American psychologist, Urie Bronfrenbrenner, summed this up ruefully when he reflected on the way we now seem to be so time poor, that connecting with our children has taken a back seat; that children ‘used to be brought up by their parents’.
Even in terms of space, we have created a division between parent and child. Increasingly, there are separate living areas in the house for Mum and Dads and the kids. Technology is also increasing this separation. It’s is now common for family members to be watching different screens at the same time, even when in the same room — we don’t even watch the telly together anymore.
We all need our own space, and certainly don’t need to be hovering over our children constantly, but the pendulum of being emotionally together versus separate has definitely swung — at least for many families — too far the wrong way.
Another barrier to connecting with our children is over-scheduling. We all try to do way too many these days, both ourselves and our children. This lack of unscheduled time together (you know, just chilling out with the kids) has led to the virtual disappearance of child-organised games (with parents participating), like blind man’s bluff and murder in the dark. How many parents do you know who still do this sort of stuff?
A large chunk of our children’s time is now taken up with sport and other extra-curricular activities, like music and dancing. Of course there is nothing wrong with sport, music or dancing! It’s just a matter of balance. Set aside some time, and a significant amount of it, to hang with your kids, with nothing on the agenda except getting to know each other better.
If you are encouraging your child to participate in sport or other extra-curricular activities, make sure you do this the right way. Involve them in the choice of activity, and let them progress at a pace and intensity they feel comfortable with. Once again, we don’t want to start living through our child’s achievements (or lack thereof).