Thursday, March 3, 2011

Reconnect with your Kids

Do you ever feel disconnected from your kids, even if you're a stay-at-home-mom?

I admit that I do sometimes. When I was pregnant with Jasmine I went back to work for 4 months and then I was off work for about 6 weeks before she was born.  I was aware during that time that my absence from Anna and Holly (then 3.5 years and almost 2 years) had created a chasm in the closeness that I had previously enjoyed with them.  I had to really seek that connection because I was worried that after the baby was born I'd have an even harder time getting it back.

But even now that I haven't worked in over 3 years, I still notice that occasionally I feel distant with one or another of my children.  It could be that one has reached a milestone of independence that I am finding hard to accept.  Or it could be that my mind is stuck on an (inappropriate) expectation that one of them is not fulfilling.  Or it could be that I am feeling frustrated that someone has returned to needing me in a way that she had previously given up.  I've come to realize that just being with my kids is not enough to create a solid connection on a daily basis. I have to work at maintaining that same bond that I felt when they were tiny infants in my arms.  I have to let go of any preconceived idea of who they are meant to be and just let my love flow for who they are now.

If you are feeling a lack of connection with your child, here are three little steps you can take to re-establish a fulfilling bond.  A daily dose of these three actions will help your relationship with your child whether she is 3 years old or 13 years old.

Affection  Remember how you couldn't get enough of your baby--stroking his cheek and kissing his toes and rubbing his smooth little back?  No matter what age your child is now, he still needs your physical closeness.  If you don't normally offer a hug first thing in the morning, start today.  Cuddle up together to read a favourite story.  If a lot of touch with your older child is outside of your comfort zone (or hers) start with getting permission:  Would you like a back-scratch before you go to bed?  Can I hug you before I go out?  And if your child initially resists, ask again the next day.  Persist.  If the goal is to connect, accept that it may take time.

Affirmation  You've heard of the expression Find a child doing something right?  Find lots of nice things to say to your child.  Keep your thoughts of criticism or correction to yourself.  Focus on anything positive.  Compliment your teenager's outfit.  Tell your preschooler you're proud of him.  Give your child credit for remembering something or solving a problem or finishing a task.  And make sure to smile and make eye contact.  Get down on her level and make sure she sees your face when you say something kind to her.

Activities  Do something with your child that you know he will love (that doesn't involve spending money).  Instead of dropping him off at swimming lessons, stay and watch (and don't offer any critique).  Make yourself more available for spontaneous family time.  Insist on family meals.  Refuse to answer the phone or check your messages for a whole day, or whenever you are in the presence of your child.  And don't turn your time together into the 'teachable moment';  just be together.

When your child's behaviour repels you, draw close to that child.

I'm not sure where I read that, but I know it to be true.  There have been times throughout the seven years that I've been a mother that I have felt distance from one or another of my children, but always by focusing on drawing them into my heart I have succeeded in renewing our closeness and connection.  Because when the relationship is the priority, there is nothing a parent won't do to repair any crack in the foundation of attachment.

Do you ever feel like your child is growing apart from you?  What do you do to resume your closeness and trust?