I'm sure from time to time we all experience a feeling of disconnection with our mini me's, whether they are babies and we are struggling with sleep deprivation, toddlers with their tantrums, pre-schoolers asserting their independence - all stages bring their own challenges, and sometimes it can be so overwhelming that that you feel a distance, an isolation - a disconnect from the ones that mean the most.
Over recent months I seem to have found parenting my pre-teen challenging to say the least. I understand she is growing up, that boundaries are being pushed (to the limit!!), that we both have to find a new way of connecting, but it is so hard!
I have been doing a lot of soul searching, taking of advice, reading articles and reflection on my relationships as a whole. It has become clear that we have been lacking those moments together that make us feel connected, those moments that touch your heart in the extreme and make all the hard stuff worthwhile.
I am learning that the feeling of being connected is also the reason why children willingly keep our rules. Children that feel strongly connected to their parents actually want to cooperate. Don’t get me wrong, they will still push back, they will still assert their own wants, but when they feel that we are together with them, rather than always against them, they are more motivated to follow our lead... at least.. thats what the research says.
I’ve probably mentioned this before in a blog, and certainly in my baby massage and baby yoga classes that the research tells us that we need five positive interactions to every negative interaction for healthy loving relationships. SCARY! When you think about the amount of time we spend telling off, reminding (ok.. nagging!), and dare I say yelling (well, I’m afraid so in my house!) – its soooo crucial to make sure we spend five times as much time in positive connection.
Lets be honest though, there are days that I’m just glad they are still living and breathing by bed time, I am human after all. But over recent months I have become more determined to re-build my relationships with my eldest daughter, to establish that bond and re-connect. There are a number of things I have done – for example, we had a one on one weekend in the Lakes – it was truly wonderful. No fall outs, no back chat, lots of laughing, and what I noticed above anything else, was the increased physical contact. We spent the weekend linking arms, holding hands as we wandered around, heads touching, a squeeze around the shoulders. It felt good, it felt natural, and I realised just how much I’d missed these positive interactions being habitually part of our days.
I talk so much in class about the importance of loving and nurturing touch, the impact it has on our childrens self confidence, self worth and self esteem.. how is it, I seem to have let this essential part of our relationship slide so much?
I came across some these 5 daily habits of connection which in the blurb said “they don’t add time to your day, but do add connection. Simple, but incredibly powerful, these habits heal the disconnections of daily life and build emotional intelligence”
So here you go, I’m certainly trying to incorporate them in my our daily habits. I’m determined to practice what I preach, to physically and emotionally re-connect with those who mean most to me.
1. Aim for 12 hugs (or physical connections) every day.
As family therapist Virginia Satir famously said, "We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth."
A snuggle in the morning and at night, a hug or a squeeze as you say goodbye. Pat their back, rub shoulders (remember what you learnt in baby massage?) Eye contact and smiling when you see them.
Laughter and physical play keeps you connected with your child – it stimulates happy hormones such as oxytocin in you both.
3. Turn off technology
Turn it off.. really. I know how exasperated my children are when they are trying to talk to me and I’m busy sending a text etc. I make a concerted effort now to stop, put down the device and listen.. the text can wait a minute – the fact your child needs to feel important to you can’t.
4. Make time for one on one time.
With our busy lives, this can be a hard one. But do what ever you can, when ever you can to have one on one time. Just 15 minutes a day with each child (separately).
5. Listen, and Empathize.
Connection starts with listening. Bite your tongue if you need to, but listen to what they have to say, acknowledge what they have said and that you’ve heard them and understand (even if you don’t lol!)
My parenting is a work in progress, some days I think I’m winning (our weekend away was some of them), some days I want to list them as free on ebay (I’m only being honest!). But the urge to connect is everything- to find the love, to feel the love, to give the love and receive the love – they are my world.