Are you making real connections?
Last week, we considered Sleep time, and now we turn our attention to what Daniel Siegel and David Rock call “Connecting time – Intimate private time between you and those you love and care for.”
We really don’t need to get too worked up about where this connecting time happens (on a train, in the rain, in a box or with a fox). We don’t need to fly to another city to connect with our individual children.
We need to create connecting time in our everyday, regular, REAL lives. This is time where we share values and feelings; where we model manners and expectations; where we disagree or laugh so hard that milk comes out our noses; where we are ticked off and where we solve problems. These are the ways of connection.
Are you making real connections?
One of the easiest places to build a connection between you and your family is the dinner table. You’ve heard us say it before, and you’ll likely hear it said again, the dinner table is such an important place of connection.
Many families really do understand that.
Yet we hear from parents that dinner time is the ultimate stress time for the family: getting food on the table and then into bodies who won’t sit still and who are so busy poking their siblings with a fork that there is no possibility of connection.
We hear from others who would love to have a conversation at the dinner table. It starts out, “So what did you do today dear?” only to be finished promptly with, “Nothing.”
Creating connecting time with our families means modeling the process. Rather than entering into a power struggle over eating or expecting little ones to create conversation, we can model by sharing details, questions, and solutions from our days.
Conversation is the process of teaching manners and values.
One of our favourite books is called The Family Dinner by Laurie David. We go back to it regularly as it is full of recipes and suggestions, rules and stories all supporting the idea of family dinners. Here are few simple steps to Successful Family Dinners from that book:
“Step 2: Everyone comes to the table at the same time – I’m not hungry is not an acceptable excuse for missing dinner. Even if you don’t eat, you still have to participate (in my experience, the non-hungry participants usually forget they weren’t hungry and end up eating the whole meal.)
Step 3. No Phones
Step 8. Friends and Family Welcome: Dinner is always fun when there are guests; manners improve, conversation ramps up, everyone lingers.
Step 10. Everyone Helps Clean Up: It’s more fun and cleaning up is faster when everyone chips in…”
Of course, when it comes to rules, each family needs to set their own expectations and consequences, and then needs to stick to them. When we are clear about the rules, it is easier for us to enforce them and the consistency helps our kids to know where they stand.
In a recent Globe and Mail article, Cathal Kelly talks about the expectations and traditions set at the Augusta National Golf Club – home of The Masters. There are no cell phones allowed on the course – tradition rules; they set the expectations and stick to them, and the golfers who attend follow them and enjoy them.
This week: Decide how your family will create connecting time. Create expectations/consequences that work for you and stick to them. Expect respect and model it as well. Connections are the foundation of our parenting.