How Parents Can Stay Connected to Their Kids

Six Touchstones to Support Parents
 
Sometimes we feel lost, unsure of how things are going with our parenting and  long for guidance. It can happen to anyone, in the new book Face to Face  by Kathy Masarie, MD, six touchstones are described that can help you stay connected to your children.

1. Stay Connected
• At the heart of connection is being truly present. A child’s deep sense that he can count on you to be there for him is perhaps what is most profound. When you practice being present, everyone thrives.
•  Many ways to share time, of course, and every family has different priorities, but it often consists of just hanging out together or of kids tagging along with their parents.
• Power of creating rituals around Family meals/ Bedtime /Friday nights, etc.
• BEWARE: Screen time can get in the way
 

2. Cultivate Empathy
• Empathy must be learned. . . Roots take hold early on. . . .  Like a muscle, needs regular. exercise!
• Bibliotherapy . . . reading together and talking about characters/situations in books is powerful
• Facilitating tweens/teens to volunteer in community with people older and younger is powerful
• Note: highly stressed child (or adult) is rarely able to show empathy or be a good friend. . . . Parents can continue to teach, model, and share self-soothing techniques, letting children experience small, manageable doses of stress along the way to build their resilience.

3. Create Safe Havens
• What does home as a “safe haven” look like? As imperfect as our homes--and relationships--may be, we can still strive to create a home filled with love and permeated with shared experience, deep and ordinary.  It starts with unconditional love and acceptance for each member of the family. Our children need a sense of predictability, safety, coziness, and companionship in their homes.
• Sometimes creating a "safe haven" home lies not in addition, but in subtraction. Children do not learn through “too much, too fast, too soon.” Rather, the extraordinary power of less can be used to raise calmer, happier, more secure kids.
• As children individuate in adolescence, they need to find safe havens in the neighborhood/community. . . .  Up to all of us to be proactive about providing those for the kids in our lives by being scout leaders, sports coaches, Chess club mentors, etc.

4. Take the Time
• Studies show when children are chronically over scheduled and pushed beyond their developmentally appropriate limits, stress and anxiety often ensue. "It takes a lot of slow to grow."
• Say "no" to busyness.
• Build "pressure values" in your child's (and your!) day . . . quiet reading time, bike ride around the block, candle at dinnertime,
• Embrace boredom! . . . time for anticipation and reflection
• Get outside! Nature is a natural healer.
• Protect sleep!


5. Play/Create
• Play -- Promotes brain development; builds social skills, relieves stress, enhances creativity--MAGIC ELIXIR
• Especially important to remember this in an era where so much digital game playing and increasingly classroom learning involves external compensation. Pure play, the kind that kids intuitively seek out and creatively enact, not only builds crucial lifelong skills and capacities, but it also deepens a child’s experience of internally rewarding behavior.
• Sad research: absence of play may be leading to the rise of anxiety, depression, and problems of attention and self control among children
• As kids age, they begin to benefit from instruction in music, art, dance, and other creative arts -- give kids a lifelong means for expressing themselves, feeling balanced, and reducing stress. In addition, the creative arts also build intelligence and foster academic success.


6. Walk the Talk
• Walk our talk--so easy to say and so hard to do--yet this is the one touchstone that can make all of the difference for our children. Will we do this perfectly? No. But we can give them the gift of growing and learning as they grow. Also keep in mind the power of our mirror neurons; our children automatically mirror what we do and say. This is why the challenge of walking our talk is so important.
• But not only about modeling. Walk the Talk is also about creating a family that lives and models its values. Every member of the family learns to walk the talk at his/her own developmental level.
 

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