A Family Connected
To connect as a family requires an understanding of what your family needs. In addition, it also means one understands what demands our busy world is putting on each family member. Raising kids today is much different than it was for other generations. The expectations that adults have for kids are increasingly more difficult today than they have ever been, as well. Children are expected to follow adult rules, stay on task without exception, only speak when its appropriate, among others. These expectations have cut into the creative and playful opportunities that children need to learn how to interact, communicate and process their world. What happens when there is not enough balance of healthy expectations for children? Children exhibit an increase in energy, often described as hyper, inattentive, argumentative, impulsive, loud, antagonizing, restless, etc. Oftentimes, parents describe the challenges they face with their kids’ behavior as overwhelming, exhaustive, disruptive and families find themselves disconnecting. So, how do families connect with the challenges that are thrown at them every day? Take time to slow down, connect and practice intentional family time. Ultimately, these family connection times can provide the safe place for you and your kids to connect, balance demands, and improve emotional health and family harmony. Here are four ways to establish a solid foundation of connecting with your kids.
Be intentional. Schedule times as a family without media, social media, emails, accepting phone call or texts from others. Be aware of the needs of the family when scheduling activities, outings, sports, classes, etc. If your family feels stressed with the busyness of your schedule, has trouble “winding down”, or if it has been a while since all members of the family have been in the same place at the same time, it may be time to evaluate what parts of the family schedule are not essential.
Be present. Connect, connect, connect. Eye contact, hugs, high fives, smiles. These elements convey interest, connections and intentional presence. Throughout the day, it is not uncommon for each member of the family to experience many experiences or interactions that leave a negative imprint on our thoughts or emotions. Research over the years has shown that for every negative comment or event, five positives need to co-exist to maintain a healthy balance. Let the family be that place of comfort, encouragement and resiliency. Find ways to have fun together, where these connection times happen – and let every member of the family choose an activity or event, or have a say!
Be expectant. Model the behaviors you want from your child. If you want respect, show respect. If you want calmness, model calmness. Find a family mindfulness activity to calm the mind and body, where all members have fun and participate. If you want communication, talk to your kids. Find age appropriate ways to discuss family values, positive choice making and problem solving. Model appropriate content. If you do not want your kids to enact aggression or repeat inappropriate language, limit what your family will allow for viewing and listening.
Be comfortable. Get rid of labels and shame. Lose the need to strive for perfection within your family. Acceptance of self and others provides vulnerability and safety in connection and relationship. Children pick up on other’s emotional energy, especially within the family, and when you can be comfortable in your presence, children will respond accordingly, where connection and relationship can flourish.
Below are some fun, low or no cost, engaging activities that will help provide ways practice and connect:
- Walks in the neighborhood or park – find things of the same color, shape, size, etc.
- Create a family vision board
- Play board or card games
- Establish a family ritual at family meal times, where everyone in the family tells about something positive and helpful that they experienced that day
- Have a family meeting each week to discuss upcoming events, needs of each person, check-ins on school, activities, etc.
If you would like more information on how to help your family connect in today’s busy world, or challenged by your child’s behaviors, please call! I would love the opportunity to help you explore creative ways to connect and flourish as a family.
Teresa Paterson, LPC, LCPC, RPT