Fostering Connection With Our Kids

When dealing with challenging behaviors in children, I’ve found that a consistent aspect of the relational dynamic is disconnection.  Stay with me here.  If you have a partner that you love and adore, and you’re in the midst of a fight with them, my bet is that your desire is to bridge that gap.  You want to repair that issue and get back to your typical, easy, and loving dynamic.  You feel that disconnect, and it makes you uneasy.

 I have found over and over in my practice that problem behaviors children demonstrate are often a result of disconnection with their parents.  That sense of dis-ease is uncomfortable for them, and problematic behaviors are a way for them to communicate that all is not right in their world. For anyone that has read previous blogs, including Regulating Emotions in Children; A Series of Tips and Tools From the Therapy Hour- Connect Before You Redirect, you know that a primary strategy I discuss is connection before redirection. This is essential during in the moment escalations to help a child regulate their emotions and bring their upstairs brain back online.  But what can you do to support connection prior to meltdowns, and strengthen your kiddos upstairs brain to help minimize those nasty blow outs? Special Time.

 The concept of Special time is a strategy that comes from Hand in Hand Parenting. To learn more about their philosophies, feel free to visit https://www.handinhandparenting.org/ .  For the purpose of this conversation however, Special Time, boiled down, looks like this.  Take 10 minutes a day, every day if at all possible, to connect with your child.  For those 10 minutes, your child gets to choose how the two of you spend that time.  There are a few limits, obviously.  They can’t ask to go get ice-cream every day for special time, and generally speaking, you really want to avoid a special time activity that’s technologically based.  In other words, no shows, YouTube videos or video games.  The idea is that you and your kiddo want to carve out a 10 minute pocket in your day, amidst the business and disconnect that life often brings, to connect. Perhaps it’s a few rounds of Uno, coloring, drawing, working on a craft, roughhousing together, talking, going for a walk, playing Legos, pushing them on the swing. They choose. And for that 10 minutes, you’re there. Present. With them. 

I have seen Special Time be a game changer, over and over again.  Generally, our kids want US.  They want our presence.  They want our attention. They want to be seen.  And they want to know they matter.  10 minutes a day of Special Iime is a really easy way to give them that.  And what I’ve seen happen as a result is that the level of overall connection increases, which results in a decrease in those challenging behaviors.  In addition, the connection that blossoms from Special Time supports openness and communication. And what a gift that is to your child.  Truly.  Not only during their younger years, but also as they age and move into and through adolescence.  Kids that can talk to their parents honestly about their thoughts, feelings and experiences are generally safer, make smarter decisions, have more emotional intelligence and are more well integrated, which means they can access and use their whole brain.  Woah.  For 10 minutes a day, that sounds like a pretty solid return on investment. 

For more information and ideas about Special time, feel free to visit https://www.ahaparenting.com/blog/How_To_Special_Time.  In addition, KPMH providers are always here as a resource to you.  To learn more about our child and family counseling services, feel free to visit our website.  We’re here to help!