One of the most rewarding parts of being a parent is connecting emotionally with our children. Unfortunately, when life gets busy, emotional connection is one of the first things that moves lower on the priority list. Families often become caught up in the stress of balancing needs, obligations, and responsibilities.
When children feel emotionally connected to their parents, we often see a decrease in unwanted behaviors. Children, no matter their age, benefit from emotional connection from their caregivers.
Three Ways to Increase Connection
1.) Phone Free Time
We work, take photos, decompress, connect with others, and manage our lives all from our phones. Phone use has become so common, we often do not realize the significant barrier it presents to emotional connection. Additionally, as parents create space away from cell phones, it often helps foster a healthier relationship for teens with phone use. Dedicating certain times of day or activities as phone free is a good way to create consistency.
There are a multitude of ways to incorporate phone free time into family life. One suggestion is to incorporate a no-phone rule during dinner time. Family style dinners provide important opportunities to connect throughout the week. By limiting phone use, families can create a safe space to foster emotional connections without distraction.
Another effective method of incorporating phone free time is pick one hour in the morning and one hour in the evening to dedicate as phone free. Children need to know that, at times, they have our undivided attention. When this phone free time becomes predictable, it creates opportunity for our children to seek emotional connection with us through play or conversation.
2.) Get Outside Together
Spending time outside as a family creates wonderful opportunity to have focused engagement and therefore connection. When families engage in an activity together, it allows for them to have dedicated time to connect. This could be in the form of an evening walk, a weekend morning hike, going to the river or pool, or even enjoying time sitting outside engaging in meaningful connection.
It is important is to make the activity focused on connection not productivity. As long as the activity is focused on connection, the length of time can vary and still be beneficial. Finding an activity that is age appropriate and enjoyable for everyone can help increase participation from kids. It is important to note that limiting phone use during these interaction increases their effectiveness.
3.) Incorporate Into Household Tasks
Another effective way to increase connection is to incorporate children into regular household tasks. This differs from assigning your children chores. Chores are typically completed independently and focus more on fostering independence, accountability, and responsibility. Engaging in teamwork to accomplish household tasks allows for emotional growth between members of the family who are participating.
One example of this is to allow your children to help with meal prepping or cooking. Children and teenagers can both benefit from this joint activity. By finding an age-appropriate task for your child, you create the opportunity or teamwork which allows for emotional connection. While focused on the same task, you allow the child to feel as though they are contributing to the family while also creating conversational space. By engaging in a task together, children often feel less pressure to engage in conversation. Less pressure ultimately allows children to feel more comfortable in conversation with adults.
Quality Over Quantity
One of the most common misconceptions about increasing connection with your child is that it requires a substantial time commitment. Yes, if time permits, it is beneficial to spend as much time possible engaged in these activities. However, even as little as 10-30 minutes a day, a few days a week is enough for families to begin to see increased connection. When our children consistently receive this connection, no matter how small, it creates space for emotional connections to grow.
If you are looking for help with your child, please contact us and let us set up a time to talk.