"Connection is the energy that is created between two people when
they feel seen, heard and valued - when they can give and receive without judgement."
Brene Brown, PhD, LMSW
Likely the last thing you actually want to do is connect with your moody, frosty, distant, disrespectful & unpredictable preteen or new teen in your home, or is that just me. It is really hard to reach out when we are met with tone, attitude and defiance. However, I know -to the depths of my heart- that connection and the time spent with our children are the foundation on which we grow a relationship that allows them to experience their greatness, their uniqueness and their full potential.
I've put together a playful list to help in those moments, when that last thing you feel like doing is reaching out. One intentional deep breath to ground yourself, followed by one playful attempt to notice your child. Despite all their 'not so subtle' body language, trust me - they want (and need!) to be noticed.
Have fun - be creative and please let us know what worked, and what you would add to the list!!
Ask your Annoyed preteen to play a game with you. (go old school and pull out cards or a board game, OR be brave and learn a new video game with them)
Bet your Boastful offspring that you can; run faster/farther, tidy quicker, find something faster, score more points, hit a target...
Catch your Cranky kiddo doing something kind, and just smile.
Dance with your Dreadfully shy daughter in the kitchen. (the laughter will undoubtedly follow)
Experiment with your Eccentric son; science? video game together? slime? target practice?
Forgive your Frustrating daughter when she’s late getting home.
Grab your Grumpy teenager and hit the driving range, or head to the water store or refill the propane - just because. Don't give up on this one! Even if they are grumpy at first, they will soften once they realize that you just wanted to spend time with them, just them.
Hug your Huffy first born, and hang on until they stop squirming.
Indulge your Independent offspring with an unexpected note, a basket of their folded laundry, a cleaned room, or a tidied desk.
Joke with your Jaded preteen (yes, already jaded & feeling like they've 'been there, done that') A little bit of teasing (be gentle!) can be playful. Laugh at yourself & expose your eccentricities, it reminds them that we're human.
Kiss your Kiddos goodnight, always (especially when they think they’re getting too old!)
Love your Little one, differently today (play a video game with them, ask them to teach you their favourite card game, go for a bike ride, walk to the park together)
Make something with your Monkeys! Banana bread? Bracelets? Lego? Muffins?
Notice them. Just Notice, nicely. Quietly & kindly.
(It’s hard not to echo back tone, frustration, attitude, disappointment when we receive it.)
Offer your Obstinate, Ornery & Obnoxious child love - often - be creative!! My favourite rule of thumb is to 'say what you see' - "you sound really frustrated, need anything?" or "you slammed the door pretty hard and just threw your bag, what's up?" By stating what you see, you are present, non-judgemental & ready to connect.
Play! PLAY! Play with your Precocious preteen. They still want to despite appearing too cool! Dust off the tennis rackets, ping pong paddles, board games or pencil crayons - just PLAY together.
Query your Quizzical & Quirky kiddo to have them help you understand Instagram, SnapChat, Bitmoji’s or just your phone in general...(let them teach you & show you what they like)
Relax with your Resentful Ruffians!! Sit next to them while they’re watching their favourite show, read beside them (not too close) - but resist the urge to talk, just be near, be quiet & be relaxed.
Shop with your Sarcastic (or sanctimonious, sassy...) Son - let him choose snacks for lunches, food for the weekend or if you're feeling really brave - take him clothes shopping. It is neat to watch their personalities and preferences emerge.
Trust your Trying monkey with some added responsibility (like cutting the grass, biking to pick up a few groceries) - they will love this and it creates an opportunity for you to thank them, acknowledge them & grow their confidence.
Unleash your laughter & Unveil your past with your Underlining. Tell funny (humbling!) stories about yourself as a child/teen. Undo the myth of parental perfection. (honesty is awesome)
... this last part of the alphabet is proving to be a little bit tricky, but you get the point. It's not so much about the how, but it is in the doing. Most days we are tired, we are distracted and we are stressed. The pace at which we run through life makes it feel impossible to connect. The idea of slowing down can be daunting, and downright scary because after all, "we don't have time!"
Let's challenge that belief together - let's find just a few minutes to breathe more deeply, to notice our children, and to reach out creatively to connect.
Visit a fun store with your Vexatious child; a pet store, the hardware store, or even the humane society, the food bank, the restore - just to change your environment and interrupt the patterns that are established within our weeks. New places spark new conversation and this creates connection.
Watch your Wistful son doing something that he loves & is good at! Just watch. Indulge. No need to comment, suggest or praise - just be present, phone down & watch.
Xbox? Try it. (with them)
Yearn not for Yesterday, or Years already gone by - say YES to trying something new with your child. Find the excitement in them growing up, changing and becoming who they were meant to be.
Zip your lips. Smile. Breathe. No comments, no corrections, no critiques, no criticisms - connection. Simply Connection
Jenn is a Child & Family Therapist for the Counting Butterflies Wellness Tribe. With over twenty years of professional experience in Child & Family Mental Health, Jenn is skilled at joining and navigating families to grow and thrive. Her specializations include Play & Attachment-Based Therapy, and is passionate about supporting the social-emotional needs of children aged pre-school through early teenage-hood.