We live in a very fast-paced world now with many things to distract us. Computers, smartphones, tablets, video gaming devices, and television all vie for our attention. These things have made our lives so much easier and more entertaining but at a cost. The cost is our relationship with our children. I have personally witnessed the following scene at my school cafeteria and out at restaurants. The child is chatting away and the parent hardly looks up from the cell phone to even acknowledge the child. It is so sad to me to see a parent make a special lunch date with his or her child only to see the parent-focused almost entirely on the cell phone.
This problem can be resolved although it might not be an easy one for many parents. It is about carving out special time daily to focus on your children. This is a time to really listen to your child, to see what is in their mind and heart, and to rebuild that connection that got lost in the middle of the sea of technology.
One simple approach is to have a bedtime routine that involves about 20 to 30 minutes of connection. It could be as simple as stating to your child, “Tell me about your day.” Then keep your eyes on your child as they tell you about the unfolding of their day. Use reflecting statements such as, “You felt sad when your friend wouldn’t play with you”. Or, “You felt excited about your good grade on your test.” Avoid questions as they make children want to answer them in the way they think you want them to. This time is about tuning in, holding judgment, and just enjoying the experience of your child’s day through their interpretation.
I highly recommend a book to help with connecting with your child. It is called “I Love You Rituals” by Becky A. Bailey, Ph.D. She also wrote the books “Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline” and “Conscious Discipline”. The book has hundreds of games and activities you can do with your child that boost brain potential, encourage cooperation, promote learning and literacy, and increase attention/decrease power struggles as well as build those important bonds. One chapter is completely devoted to bedtime games. These appear to be geared towards younger children but I bet your older children would enjoy them just as much.
Here’s one example of a game that I particularly like. It is called “Goodnight Elbow”. You tell your child, “I am going to say goodnight to your ears, your hair, your forehead, your eyebrows, your shoulders, and your elbows.” Continue down the child’s body, saying goodnight to as many parts as you like. Each time you say goodnight to a body part, touch that part. With each touch, you can add a gentle massage which can help your child relax for a good night of sleep. Take your time with this activity. Use the time to help you relax as well by emptying your mind of clutter and being totally present with your child. You may play “wake up elbow” in the morning by touching various body parts one at a time. Say, “I’m going to wake up your hair, your ears, etc.” Touch each part that you wake up.
Dr. Bailey shares a quote in the book that goes like this, “The true gifts of life lie in the moment. That is why we call it the present.” She adds, “We, as a culture, have replaced presence with presents.” I think this is so true. I hope that you take on the challenge and joy of giving your child your presence which is the best gift you could ever give.
Ms. Howard works at Rejuvenate as a Registered Play Therapist. Her specialty is with children ages 3 to 12. Her philosophy involves using techniques such as play therapy to understand children and their challenges through the language of play, the language that children naturally “speak.” Ms. Howard establishes rapport quickly and easily with children using playful interventions that help put them at ease so they can work on their struggles and become happy, healthy kids again. Ms. Howard has received training as a Love and Logic instructor and Child Parent Relationship Training in which she teaches parents how to conduct play therapy sessions with their own children at home.