“Do you see me? Do you hear me? Are you there?”
Have you ever felt really disconnected with your child? Do you ever feel like your child constantly asks for more of you and for more of your attention? Do you get the feeling that they need more but you can’t quite figure out what that looks like or how to add that into your busy life?
I know most parents and caregivers have experienced these feelings. Here’s the deal, it’s really normal and really frustrating. These times may come up more when your child is making an adjustment or dealing with a challenge, but they can also simply be a part of the everyday game. It is a normal part of a child’s development and relationship with their parent for them to want to be seen, be heard, and feel like you are present with them.
But how do you make this happen as a parent? Meet their need for attention, while also alleviating some of the ever present “am I spending enough time with my kids,” parent guilt. Here’s a tool that you can try out to connect well with your children that can both positively impact your relationship and increase positive behavior changes. Also, you may have one child that ends up taking more of your time due to higher needs like a chronic illness or behavioral challenge…this tool is an easy way to connect with your other children helping them get the attention they need as well.
Short, quality, one on one, positive time. Integrating regular short, but focused quality time with your child can greatly enhance your relationship. This time gives your child so many messages including that you are present with them, that you care about them, and that they are special. I recommend starting with 15 minutes 3 days a week per child. Make it clear and intentional by setting a timer and telling your child that this is their time. They get to be in charge (within reason!) of what you do during this time and your job is simply to hyperfocus in on your child. Give encouragement, give love, but most of all just give attention. Undivided, uninterrupted, intentional attention.
Having positive relationships with your children is highly important to the health and well being of your family. Spending positive, one on one time with your children individually is critical to developing the bond that makes each person feel important to the other. Although this may feel like a huge commitment, in the long run, you will see the benefits and it will actually save you time.
In fact, the time that you put into your child by doing this practice will save time later because it will promote positive behavior, enhance a close bond with your child, and have a lasting impact on their development. It also models for them the importance of intentionally nurturing relationships. I have seen this WORK. And fairly quickly too. Once this becomes a consistent part of a child or teen’s experience with their parent, the shifting can begin.
Here are some things to consider for your one on one time:
- Your child is in charge during this time. Give them the control of deciding what activity you will do together. No need to add anything to their play, just let them guide the direction and flow of the activity.
- For older kids and teens let them bring up topics of conversation and avoid any judgments.
- Show interest and focus on your child but avoid asking questions or distracting from their play or chosen activity.
- Comment on or describe what your child is doing and for older kids reflect on what they are saying in order to communicate that you are listening and you understand.
- Avoid teaching or directing during this time. This is really important! That’s not what this time is for, save that for another time. Let them be in charge! It’s hard but will get easier with practice, and just remember, they do it all the time as we are almost always the ones in charge and in control.
- Allow your child to direct your involvement.
- Provide lots of encouragement and love and really build up that this is your special time together.
- Set a timer so that it is clear and intentional, reminding them that once the timer goes off the time will end. If your child does better with a 2-3 minute alert for transition, set that timer too.
- Let anyone else in the house know that this is your special time so that they know not to interrupt.
I know it sounds simple but we forget to spend quality time with our kids. The difference with the time I’m talking about here is that they are running the show. It’s truly THEIR time and we are just there to be present and give attention. This time will cut back on attention seeking behaviors because, that need is being met. Consistency is key so that your child can expect this special time and appreciate your relationship. It communicates that you value what they need, because they do in fact need your time and attention.
I have a background in child development and work with parents of kids of all ages to build lasting positive relationships with their children. If you are a parent who would like additional support and coaching, please contact me here. I offer free 15 minute consultations where I’ll try to get an idea of what you are dealing with and how I can help. We will get a good sense of each other and can decide if I’m the best fit for you. Together we will make a plan for the next steps.