What does it really take to connect with someone? We talk about quality time over quantity. We talk about the benefits of real life connections over those online. We talk about really listening rather than just hearing.
All these things are relevant and true.
After all connection is everything. It gives us purpose and meaning to all that we do. I know I would struggle to find relevance for anything I did without the sharing of those achievements, challenges, failures and successes with my family and friends.
But what does it take to really connect?
In my work I have often come across families that for whatever reason are stressed, fragmented and even hostile.
I hate hearing parents say their child is no fun to be around. That they don’t understand their world. That they are only interested in computer games. That they have no concentration. That they are attention seeking. That they only care about their friends. That they don’t want to talk to them. All these things may have an element of truth. And certainly there are moments when we all may have felt some of these things.
But I believe all children really want is connection. They don’t always ask for it. They often don’t even realise that is what they want. And if they do know, they are unlikely to know how to articulate it. Most of the time it comes out in other ways. It could be that attention deficit misbehaviour. It could be that closing up and refusing to talk. It could be that tantrum, that slammed door or that ‘I hate you’.
It is easy to connect with our kids when they are little. Their squidgy little faces are so easy to kiss. Their inability to move unaided means we are mostly holding them close, picking them up and carrying them from one destination to the next. Their reliance on us for everything ensures that we need them close in order to feed, bathe and keep them safe.
When they are toddlers and small children we know how much they want our attention. Apparently toddlers ask 467 questions on average a day! That can be genuine curiosity, but also a desire for attention. We know that as soon as we get on the phone they want something to eat. As soon as we sit down they need to go to the toilet.
But I now know if I set my 3 year old up with play dough or drawing and pay attention for 15 minutes, I can get maybe 30 minutes without him nagging me for something. Or some relative scale.
As they grow and their independence becomes more cool than mums hand, then we let go a little. And we should. But only in the physical sense. We still need to keep them close. We still need to make sure they know we are there.
As my older boys enter in to that world of it not being so cool to hold mums hand, I am become very wary of how I keep those connections strong. Sometimes common interests and pursuits may allow it to happen more easily. Other times, it may require a more conscious effort. Here is what I hope to continue to do:
Make time: A computer game we can play against each other, a visit to the coffee shop for a milkshake by ourselves. A chat before bedtime. A movie together. An outing to somewhere that interests them.
Take any opportunity: My eldest isn’t always forthcoming with a cuddle, but he is happy to take me on with some wrestling moves to see if he can flip me over (which he seems to be not far from achieving). I’m happy to take that though. Similarly, a drive in the car to sports training or a friends can sometimes get more out of my kids than sitting them down for a chat. It is important to use these moments to let your kids know that you are always able to turn your attention to them. Sometimes issues or concerns are more likely to be brought to the surface in these moments.
Listen to them: Let them ask questions and ask them questions. Try not to interrupt even when we believe we know exactly what they’re going to say. This is sometimes easier said than done for me and a constant work in progress!
With 5 children I think it is natural that they get different attention at different stages. As parents I believe we need to ensure that connection is always there, no matter what external challenges and difficulties arise.
Have you had to find different ways to connect with your kids? Or what are the memories of your connections with your own parents?
This Post Has 17 Comments
You make so many valid points, I try and set my kids up with activities but they always want help, and I know I should be there, but sometimes I just want them to learn to play independently, in saying that, I am always within arms throw of them. My kids are very little so I’m yet to discover the joys of too much screen time 🙂
You are very right. It is important to find that balance between devoting time and attention to them but then also allowing them to play independently.
So much of this is true. I find with our youngest playing, as you say, with her for ten or so minutes then allows me time afterwards to get things done. She seems content that Mum played and understands now mum has some work to do.
I think all we really want, all of us, is to be heard and noticed!
Absolutely Jodi!Kids and adults alike!
I find as my two get older (8&10) that it is a case of finding the right connection. Both different. And different times mean different connections. Great words
Yes different kids means different personalities, interests and needs so it is something we all need to keep in mind.
Thanks for this Martine – so very important to remember. I hope I can keep connecting with my kids as they grow up and become more independent, I will definitely keep your points in mind as we take that journey together.
Thanks Kirsty, and I can tell from reading your blog that you do a great job of that.
I wen to boarding school at 14, so missed out on a lot of those connections. As an adult, it has taken me several years to connect with my parents, particularly my dad, and only just recently that I feel a real connection with them. Great post
Hello from #teamIBOT
Thats really interesting isnt it. I wonder how different (if at all) things would have been had you not gone to boarding school?
With four children and being a sole parents for half of the time, I often feel it is impossible to connect well with the kids. My daughter who is 7 is the one who demands connection most, and I think who needs it most at this stage. I read stories with each twin last thing at night, and with the big boys, driving them here and there on their own is really helpful. They come and go in their needs… which is lucky cos the hardest time to connect is when all four are telling me something all at once. My poor brain fries.
It sounds like you are doing a great job at it Seana. You are right though, often it is difficult to connect with them all at the same time! It seems like you are able to give some of yourself to them all at different times though which is really important and not always easy.
I’m finding that they older they get, the harder it is! There is so much communication they need, and I need to make more of an effort and invest a lot more than I did (or still do) with the little ones. But the payoff is pretty darn awesome as well. 🙂
Beautiful and so true Martine. We are simply made for relationship. Teens still crave their parents connection. Sometimes it just looks a bit different to when they were 5.
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I believe in the ‘opportunity to connect’… We as parents should always on a look out position, always waiting for opportunity how to connect with our kids, especially the big ones. If we are just always ready, we could see these opportunities everyday. 🙂
Thanks for the blog.