9 Ways to Create Moments of Connection with Older Children

June 18th, 2013 by Dionna | 13 Comments
Posted in Consensual Living, natural parenting, Respond with Sensitivity, Strive for Balance, Use Nurturing Touch

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9 Ways to Create Moments of Connection with Older Children at Code Name: Mama

When my son, now five years old, was a baby, we were like a single entity. He slept on my chest, he nursed from my breast, I wore him in a Moby wrap skin to skin for weeks until he graduated to the ring sling.

I am similarly attached to my daughter, who is a much more independent toddler at 18 months old. She nurses almost anytime she needs to, she checks in with me often during free play, she sleeps cuddled next to me, and I still care for almost all of her needs.

Even when my son was a young preschooler – three, four years old – we shared countless moments of special time. He brought me every new discovery, he bounced all of his ideas off of me, we read and played and learned together.

As my son grows into a full-fledged child – no longer a preschooler who depends on his parents for so much – I find that our moments of connection are fewer and farther in between. They have become more fleeting, and more precious.

He often prefers playing superheroes with friends to me (and I get it, his friends have a lot more energy!). His discoveries are sometimes his alone to examine, experiment on, then place in his “secret box.” He spends hours listening to audiobooks, playing in his tree house, and simply doing his own thing.

Those moments of intimacy that seemed to happen so naturally and frequently when he was younger have transformed into more intentional, discrete incidents. And I can only imagine that even these occasions have the possibility of diminishing, unless I actively seek them out.

So these days I consciously create opportunities to be fully present and connect with Kieran. Putting away distractions, being intentional about reaching out – both are often necessary in order for this time together to really feel meaningful.

Below I’ve described eleven ideas that have worked for us or that I would like to try in the future. Keep in mind that my child is 5.5 years old, so what works for us may not work for a teenager, or even a ten year old. I’d love to hear how you connect with your children (of any age), please share in the comments.

9 – Wait, 11! – Ways to Mindfully Connect with Older Children

  1. Do Something Kind Together. Practicing kindness helps children develop important relationship skills. Exercise that kindness muscle together by finding regular opportunities to perform random acts of kindness. Here are 155 ideas for random acts of kindness for family, friends, and strangers.
  2. Create Enjoyable Transitions. What helps your child during transitions (picking her up from an event, meeting at the dinner table, etc.)? Is it a hug, a few minutes of silence, some questions from you about the activity, the opportunity to chat about life? Try a few different things during transition times, and notice which your child responds positively to.
  3. Take an Interest. What is your child into? Is she on a team? Does he collect something? Ask about it regularly. Get to know the language, the ins and outs and ups and downs. Set aside a few minutes several times a week to find out about your child’s interests.
  4. Laugh. What gets your child giggling? Is it a round of roughhousing? Telling silly jokes? A favorite movie? Make an effort to laugh together frequently. Laughter releases stress and increases health, memory and learning.1
  5. Love, Especially When Your First Reaction Is to Do Otherwise. In both Respectful Parents Respectful Kids and Nonviolent Communication, the authors teach parents how to listen with empathy, even when what the child says is hard to hear. See conflict as problems to solve. Make open communication a priority. Practice unconditional love.
  6. Cook Together. Nothing can bring two people together like food. Find a recipe that you are both excited about making, and create it together. For inspiration, check out this list of 50 books, websites and resources to inspire kids in the kitchen.
  7. Say Thank You. I’m not just talking about saying thank you for helping around the house (although that’s a good idea, too), but thank your children for being themselves. Thank them for holding your hand while walking down the street. Thank them for asking your opinion. Thank them for being {insert great attribute here}. Be genuine, model graciousness. Read 10 ideas to help children learn to say thank you.
  8. Volunteer Together. Find something both of you are passionate about – shelter dogs, local hiking trails, your elderly next door neighbor – and connect through volunteerism. Read ten ideas for volunteering with young children.
  9. Connect physically. Just because your child is getting older, do not assume that they do not want to be hugged. Physical touch is vital for humans. Touching releases oxytocin – the feel-good, “bonding” hormone – the same love hormone that is released during those long lost breastfeeding sessions. Touching has other health benefits, too; it can, for example, strengthen our immune system and lower blood pressure.2 So hug freely. Hold hands during meal blessings. Rub shoulders. Stroke hair. Engage in touch that feels comfortable for both of you.
  10. Tell Them “I Love to Watch You ____.” I’m adding a late #10 after publishing, because I read a great article the other day at Hands Free Mama called Six Words You Should Say Today. She encourages parents to forget imparting tips to better their kids’ performance, just let your children know you love watching them do whatever it is they do. Gymnastics, bike riding, baseball, playing piano, whatever it is your child does with a passion, just hang out and watch them.
  11. Try Love Bombs. Another late addition from Here Now Brown Cow. A love bomb is simply an extended period of one-on-one time between parent and child, where the parent makes a concentrated effort to show love to the child. The concept comes from a book called Love Bombing: Reset Your Child’s Emotional Thermostat by Oliver James. James contends that love bombing can help children work through a variety of issues, and it helps parents relearn how to connect with their children.

How do you consciously connect with your older children?

13 Responses to:
"9 Ways to Create Moments of Connection with Older Children"

  1. This is a huge area of interest to me, thank you for sharing! I have been doing a lot of things to reconnect with my almost 6 year old, the most helpful being to love and connect physically! I like your volunteering suggestion! Love bombs are also rocking for us at the moment!

  2. Annie

    I tell mine (6 in a few weeks) when there is a quiet moment that I’m so happy I’m his mom, that I love hanging out with him, that I love how kind he is and that he is an amazing big brother. He also really connects when I can make him laugh with something silly/5 yr oldish humor.

  3. Ruth Mitchell

    I must tell you that I ADORE the times that Kieran just wants to climb on my lap and “talk about life” or read a book (usually Peter Pan I think of it as OUR book). I love to just be silly with him…and simply enjoy him!!! You are doing such a wonderful job, nurturing your children and showing them the way to be loving, kind and richly divergent children!!! Thank you for the gift of two FABULOUS Grandchildren!!!! They make me smile, just thinking about them!!!!! :-)

  4. Kerri   giggly_kerri

    Connor and I love to read together. He has recently started reading the Magic Treehouse books, but as a kindergartener (for 2 more days), he still needs help. We alternate pages. I also find that when he has a tantrum, he really responds to my being there with him. My hugs help him calm down.

  5. We do several of these as well! When we are walking through parking lots and whatnot, I always tell them that I love it when they hold my hands. I tell them that I am glad they are my friends. I offer hugs and kisses whenever I am close enough with my hands free. And I’ve really been working lately at reaching out when my kids – especially my emotional one – is having a real fit. He has a tendency to burst into LOUD, wailing tears over things that seem minute to me. It is hard to switch from “Dear Lord, here we go again,” mentality to one of love and empathy, but it REALLY helps him when I can. I do thank them for being themselves, and for hanging out with me. I also try to point out positive attributes or contributions that I’ve noticed as well – after the fact. Like pointing out that I’ve noticed that my son is such a good friend to people, just when it is quiet and we are hanging out, and pointing out what I have seen him doing that makes him a good friend. Just letting him know that I am paying attention to what he is working on.

  6. Thank you! I love these. Cuddling at bedtime is a big one for us. My almost five-year-old son loves to have us snuggle with him before he falls asleep, and though it is often a time when I’m eager to finally have some ‘adult’ time, we always enjoy the time to connect. I know there will be a day when he doesn’t ask for us to stay with him in bed, so we have to enjoy it while it lasts!

  7. Lisa Kathleen   fullcrcleparent

    Yay, intentional connection!! I love this article. One of the really intentional things I do to connect with my 8-year-old girl is NOT schedule activities. We have a limit of one formal activity at a time, so 6 months of piano, then 6 weeks of swimming, etc. This way there’s lots of free time in our lives to just be together, run errands together, have her and/or my friends over, etc. During our day-to-day lives, I explain everything we’re doing, and why, so she’s a part of the process and takes ownership. The other thing I do is plan road trips with my daughter and her friends. In the car, I tell stories, we all sing, or learn the lyrics to a new song, or I just listen to them chattering and get some insight into their thought processes. We pack together, travel together, then go shopping for sausages and marshmallows (organic ones;), together. I also make sure we have friends over enough that her social needs are fulfilled, so that when friends aren’t around, she’s content to play near me, bake with me, etc. I find that at this age, planning stuff together is a big connection tool, too. We plan out summer holidays, weekends, etc, together, so that when we’re doing the things we planned, there’s buy-in and enthusiasm, and everybody gets what they want. Lastly, and most importantly, I stay with her every night as she’s falling asleep. That’s when she asks the most profound questions, tells me her most intimate thoughts, worries and hopes, cuddles and giggles with me – it’s like we’re having a sleepover every night:). I also read to her in the morning to help her ease into the day (transitions, like you suggested). I think the most important thing is what you said – that we take note of what brings more connection, and we make efforts to do more of that.

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      Such amazing ideas, thank you for sharing! I also need to take your words to heart about chatting at bedtime. I stay with Kieran every night until he is asleep, but I often urge him to get to sleep, not talk. I’m probably missing out on good stuff! Thanks for the reminder :)

  8. I thoroughly enjoy reminders like the one you posted, it gently prompts me to fill me days with things that really count. (how easy it is to be distracted). I can testify that volunteering together has brought great depth to our relationship, in a very soulful way. It is exciting to come together as a family and love on someone and think of ways to bring joy to them. Thanks!

  9. Beth

    I rally enjoyed this post. We really try to under schedule ourselves. That helps me to slow down and listen more. This week we are trying special uptime every night. One parent spends 15 minutes with one child doing whatever they want to do no interruptions. Then the next night we switch. Two of my favorite websites about special time:
    http://www.handinhandparenting.org/news/37/64/Backbone-and-Bounce-Building-Resilience
    http://www.ahaparenting.com/BlogRetrieve.aspx?PostID=209534&A=SearchResult&SearchID=7040911&ObjectID=209534&ObjectType=55
    I too usually encourage our 6 year old to get to sleep instead of talk. I am going to work on chatting more at bedtime. He is also into jokes now. He really gets them now that he is older, so when things are rough I try to remember to look up a new joke for him. Thanks for all of the great ideas they are great!

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      Thank you for the links!! I’m currently going back over our own fall schedule to see where we can cut something. September isn’t here and already I feel overwhelmed!

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