Hello Everyone! Welcome to week number 3! Can you believe we made it this far? This week, we will be talking about connecting with our children. I know that we  were spending time with our children before this pandemic occurred. But our time spent most likely consisted of getting our kids to sport and various activities. We were ensuring that their basic needs were met but were we truly connecting? Our lives were so chaotic that we were not able to connect at a deeper level and truly allow ourselves to get to know our children and vice versa. I am sure that there are many of you out there who are reading this and are thinking “but I do know my kids? I know what I hear when I catch them talking to their friends or what they post on social media.” And yes, that is true. But, have you allowed yourself to actively participate in your child’s life, to listen, to just be present and available? I am sure that many of us will have difficulty answering this question with a loud “ yes”.  My goal is to give you some insight and strategies to connect with your children at a deeper level.

           To begin, let’s be intentional about setting aside a night designated for “family time”. For example, every Friday night will be game night, pizza night or movie night. Now that we have identified a day and time, let’s be more creative. Let’s brainstorm ideas with our children and come up with a list of activities which we want to experience together and create an activity jar. The purpose of the activity jar is to take the pressure off of having to come up with an activity every week. Instead, you simply will pick an activity that is written on a piece of paper or popsicle stick out of the jar. The activity jar also promotes a buy-in for kids in the sense that they feel they have some control over what is being picked and share an interest in those activities rather than parents choosing for them. Some examples of activities which can put put into the activity jar include:

  1. one on one time with Mom or Dad
  2. Movie Night
  3. Campout in the living room
  4. Have a picnic
  5. Go for a hike
  6. Be creative-painting, clay, piano
  7. Pick up a new hobby together
  8. Play a video game with your child

             I know these may seem like simple things to do as a family, but, if we are intentional about making our kids a priority and actively listen to them or show interest in a passion which they have; the doors to deeper communication and a strengthened connection will open. For example, you might think that playing a video game with your kids is just feeding into their obsession with technology and desire to isolate themselves from the family. Instead, by asking them to teach you how to play you are showing interest in them and their passions. You are being vulnerable and allowing them to take the lead. You are opening yourselves up to experience the activities which promote joy in their lives. If you don’t have an interest in learning how to play; sit and watch. Be inquisitive, ask questions about why they enjoy a particular game so much or what do they get out of playing the game? I believe with all my heart, that by doing this your child’s guard will go down. They will see you being intentionally in the moment rather than scrambling to go through the motions of the day. They will in turn do the same for you if they perceive this act as genuine. Do not go into these activities with an agenda or motivated to learn particular information about your child. Let your child drive the conversation. Go with the flow, listen to them. These moments can be rare and fleeting, so be fully present.

            Next, let’s remind our children that they are loved and appreciated. We can do this through writing affirmations and posting them on their bedroom doors or mirrors. Some affirmations include: you are smart, you are loved, I love how creative you are, I love how you care for your friends, etc. We can continue to spread positivity and remind our children that the day is full of potential by writing a daily inspirational quote on a white board or sending a quick text. If you can not come up with something on your own feel free to google inspirational quotes. I did just that for the purpose of this blog and found a great one: “ You are braver than you believe, smarter than you think and more loved than you will ever know” ( A.A Mines/ Christopher Robin). Words are powerful and have the potential to change the mood or “vibe” of our children’s day without needing to put much effort into it. Furthemore, you can facilitate an opportunity for open communication with your child in the form of family dinners. Use this time to have everyone express something that they are grateful for or something good which they experienced today. You can dive even deeper by posing questions such as:

  1. What has changed/improved within our family since the start of this pandemic?
  2. What are we struggling with and how can we help each other?
  3. What do we appreciate about our family members?
  4. Name something you wish you could do as a family during this time?

     Finally, it is important to acknowledge that even though we are trying to promote positive connections and a positive mindset for our children, there will still be worries. Most children do not feel brave enough to come to their parents with their concerns or worries.It can be due to fear of embarrassment, fear of not being heard, or fear of not being supported. In order to create a safe environment where your children will feel comfortable expressing themselves I would suggest making a “worry box”. The worry box can be created out of anything you have lying around the house, a tissue box, cereal box, etc. Let your children know that it exists and they can write their worries on a piece of paper and place it into the box. The worries can be submitted anonymously or with their names. Make sure you stress, that it is completely up to them. I would suggest that you pick a time/day to read the worries in the box. You can address each worry individually with a child or you can use this as another opportunity to bring the family together in the form of a “family meeting”. During this meeting each concern will be read aloud anonymously. The only thing that is known, is that a member of the family is struggling and we are going to address it as a unit. This way the child feels supported, heard, validated and most importantly not fearful of any negative reactions/responses. If as a family you are able to problem solve around that identified worry, great. If not, the importance lies in the individual feeling safe, heard and most of all loved.

               Try some of these ideas, and you are on your way to building deeper connections with your children. Do not put pressure on yourselves for change to occur right away. No one has a magic wand. Be patient, be present and create a buy-in for your children. Be vulnerable and intentional. You can grow and benefit from these opportunities for connection just as much as they can. I hope you all have a great week! I will see you next Sunday for Week 4 “ When it Hits Home: Being the Spouse of a Frontline Worker”. I hope to see you then!

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