Sometimes it’s hard to engage with children. We see them sitting around or playing with each other. We have the sense that we’d like to reach out but we don’t know how. When trying to connect with them, it’s easy to say ‘hello’ and ‘how are you’. And it’s easy to think that if they don’t answer or hide then that means the child doesn’t want to connect with us and our job is done. We tried. They weren’t interested. Moving on. I’m going to challenge that idea by encouraging each of us to connect with a child in the ways they like; in ways that are easily accessible to them. Although direct conversation can be great once children are warmed up, it is often not-so-easy a place to get started.
Ideally, I would like each child to be welcome because we like them and when that’s not easy to remember to make the effort to connect with them and support their real needs because we are finding how now, as adults, it’s much harder to go back and reparent ourselves.
I sometimes have a hard time remembering that my children are people with very real needs, feelings, and desires that are just as valid as my own. Moreover, they have a legitimate dependency on Chris and I, their parents. One of the reasons I’m writing now is to remind and encourage myself to see Violet and Dash as people and to connect with them directly on their own terms.
Right now, these two small people are children learning about the world and relationships in a very innocent way. Are they always fun to be around? No. Are they always well behaved? No. Do you always have to cater to their whims? Hell no. Is it OK to set boundaries and say “no”? Absolutely, yes. And if the bulk of their relationship with anyone is about boundaries, nos, “be quiet and don’t disturb the adult conversation” then it’s going to be very hard for them to feel welcome and form a strong attachment in that relationship.
5 minute Connection Ideas
- Read a Kids Book aloud. Talk about the pictures.
- Tell a story from your imagination or memory. Cut yourself some slack. It doesn’t have to be publishable.
- Play pretend. Chase games, low on the scary high on the adult awkwardness, are especially fun.
- Eat some raisins together
- Draw or color
- Take a walk to see what’s growing outside. Offer the names of plants you know.
- Offer piggyback rides
- Chase a child with a sweeper mop. Don’t catch her. Dramatically fail to catch her. Try again.
- Make a fort. A blanket and two chairs go up very quickly.
- Swing in a hammock together.
- Turn on some music and dance together. Follow the child’s lead.
- Sew, weave, knit, or braid. Friendship bracelets from leftover yarn can be braided very quickly.
- Play in sand, mud, dirt. Even girls who normally like to stay clean can really enjoy getting dirty – especially when invited by an adult.
- Play in sprinklers or the hose on a hot day.
- Resist the urge to always prioritize talking with grown-ups. Sometimes talk with and play with the children even if there is an adult nearby you’d like to engage.
- When sweeping, offer the fun of playing jump over the broom handle by laying it on or close to the floor.
- Pick a bouquet of wildflowers and give it to someone
- Turn a jump rope. Invite other kids and adults to join in the skipping.
- Pick berries and eat them together
- Do mental math. Start easy and see what they ask for.
- Play catch with something soft. Rolled up socks are good.
- Invent an Activity
Thanks for reading, considering, and caring.
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