Thursday, June 9, 2011

Article: The 5 Habits You Need To Stay Connected To Your Child

I recently subscribed to this newsletter. It has quickly become one of my favorite parenting emails! I can't say it enough; it is wonderful. Check out Find her on Facebook.

I find her emails grounding. They are a constant reminder of what really matters when it comes to raising a child. It is so easy to worry about the tens of to-do's I have on any given day, to worry about whether or not Ari's clothes match, did her hair get done, etc., etc. I am learning a lot. I am learning about balance. I am constantly reminded that the sense of connection amongst our family is my #1 priority, that, if the sense of connection is not there, I have nothing. If there is no sense of connection, it feels like everything around me starts to fall apart.

I am finding myself having more conversations with my child, giving her even more hugs, and spending even more time being on my knees so I can talk to her face to face about the things that trouble her, trivial or not. She is becoming more and more interested in snuggling, saying sweet things and letting us know she loves us in different ways. I am so loving it!

Here is the latest article from


"We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth." -- Virginia Satir

We all want that closeness with our children that makes our hearts melt. But so much of what we consider normal parenting pushes our children away, and makes them more difficult.

It begins when we follow the well-meaning advice to turn away from our crying baby. This erodes our empathy for our child, because instead of following our instincts – which, naturally, tell us to respond to the needs of our little one – we harden our hearts. After that, it's much tougher to feel empathy for this struggling little person, to see things from his perspective. Our child reacts with neediness and defiance. We're exhausted with the demands of daily life, increasingly exasperated by our child's lack of cooperation. We nag, yell and punish, which just makes our child’s behavior worse. This escalates in the teenage years, when parents and children scream and fight; when children start looking for love in all the wrong places.

Like every parent in the world, we're just trying to raise good kids, and we can't even figure out where we went wrong. Over and over, I hear from parents that they wish they had understood how important it is to connect, not just correct.

Of course, parents are only human. There are days when all we can do is meet our children's most basic needs: Feed them, bathe them, keep an encouraging tone, hug them, and get them to sleep at a reasonable hour so we can do it all over again tomorrow. Given that parenting is the toughest job on earth -- and most of us do it in our spare time, after we work at another job all day -- the only way to keep a strong bond with our children is to build in daily habits of connection. What kinds of habits?

1. 12 hugs a day - Including a reconnecting hug after every separation.

2. Turn off technology when you interact with your child. - Really. Your child will remember for the rest of her life that she was important enough to her parents that they turned off their cell phones to listen to her.

3. Special time - Every day, 15 minutes with each child, separately. Alternate doing what your child wants and doing what you want, and on your days resist the urge to structure the time with activities. Instead, play therapeutic "games" to help your child with whatever issues are worrying him. (For ideas about such games, click here.)

4. Welcome emotion - Sure, it's inconvenient. But your child needs to express his emotions or they'll drive his behavior. So welcome the meltdowns, don't let the anger trigger you, and soothe the tears and fears that always hide behind the anger. Remember that you're the one he trusts enough to cry with, and breathe your way through it. Afterwards, he'll feel so much closer to you, and you'll see the difference in how he cooperates.

5. Empathy - The habit of seeing things from your child's perspective will ensure that you treat her with respect and look for win/win solutions. It will help you see the reasons for behavior that would otherwise drive you crazy. It will help you regulate your own emotions so when your buttons get pushed and you find yourself in "fight or flight," your child doesn't look so much like the enemy.

Maybe most important of all, the habit of empathy is what brings you those moments with your child that make your heart melt. We all need more of those.

May you be blessed with miracles today, large and small.
Dr. Laura

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