Nine Ideas to Meaningfully Reconnect with Your Child

July 29th, 2015 by Dionna | 2 Comments
Posted in Carnival and Special Series, Ensure Safe Sleep, Feed with Love and Respect, Gentle Discipline Ideas, Successes, and Suggestions, natural parenting

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Think of a time that you have been away from your partner or friend. Days or weeks have passed, and you are anxiously awaiting the moment you will see her. Something important has happened while she was away, and you want nothing more than to hug her close and share your news.

When you see your friend walk through the door, you run up excitedly, completely in the moment. But she has had a long trip, she is frazzled, she would rather just turn the radio on and tune the world out. She gives you a cursory hug, tells you to hurry up, and turns away.

And you are crushed.

Now imagine that your child is the one waiting for her friend, and you are the friend. Your child has been in school, daycare, anywhere but with you. You are the most important person in your child’s world. He would love to share the events of his day, and he wants to hear about yours.

You might be tired, you might be stressed, but if you could gather the energy to greet your child with joy, you may also feel better after a few minutes of meaningful reconnection.

Whenever you have to leave your child in the care of another – whether it is for work or some other reason, for a full day or only an hour – coming back to your child can be a time of joyous reconnection. Below are some ideas on how to meaningfully reconnect with your child.1 And if you have not been in the habit of being present and connected with your child after you pick him up, give it some time. Keep trying. You will both benefit in the end.

Nine Ideas to Meaningfully Reconnect with Your Child

  1. Make Eye Contact: For parents of infants and toddlers, there is nothing better than finding a quiet place to relax and stare into each other’s eyes. Breastfeeding or bottle nursing are perfect ways to make eye contact and share smiles. But even if you aren’t still nursing your child, making eye contact is still a wonderful way to establish a connection. “Not many parents have experienced that profound bliss of deep, loving eye gazing with a child over age two. Not many even know it’s possible to regain. It’s as if we don’t really expect those close connections to last. When [parents are encouraged] to engage their children age three, or six, or even older, in soulful eye contact, they usually start out quite skeptical, but if they persist through the initial rejections, and get to that deeper level of closeness, they find it to be one of the most rewarding exercises.”2
  2. Unplug and Tune In: Schedule time (when you reunite with your child) to unplug and spend focused time together. Televisions, laptops, phones – everything goes off. One reader shared her experience as a mama who worked outside the home: “When I was a WOHM I got rid of our TV. I know some will scoff at this, but I was also a newly single mama, and for us it made so much of a difference! After four months TV free I realized that we ate less food, slept better, fought less and read more. We played games at night after dinner, like telling stories in a round (one sentence at a time) – makes for hilarious nonsensical stories! It was the best thing I could have done for my family (and we could still watch movies on the computer if we needed).” Need ideas for tech-free activities? Check out these 7 Fun Activities to Try During Screen-Free Week.
  3. Play: “Play is children’s natural way of recovering from their daily emotional upheavals, so the more fluent we can become in the language of our child’s play, the better we can help them recomplete the circle of reconnection.”3 Depending on the age and stage of your child, a few minutes of dedicated, down on the floor play can do wonders to reconnect parent and child. Playful Parenting offers a variety of ways parents can connect through playtime.
  4. Kieran and Tia Tammy taking time to meaningfully reconnect after a long absence.

  5. Cosleep: Sharing sleep with your child does not need to end with infancy, there are continued benefits to cosleeping with older children. Children who cosleep are generally more independent and secure, develop close and lasting bonds to their families, and report more happiness and general life satisfaction than children who sleep alone. And one of the biggest bonuses for working parents is the added hours of snuggles and closeness you can have with your little one. With everyone relaxed and cuddled up, children feel peaceful and ready to share their thoughts and stories, things that you might never hear during the hustle and bustle of daily life. Read more in Five Benefits to Cosleeping Past Infancy on Natural Parents Network.
  6. Nurse: Nursing was the number one answer when I asked how mamas reconnect with little ones after an absence. And what’s more, you can do just about any of these ideas while nursing. Breastfeeding or bottle nursing give you ample opportunities to make eye contact; you can unplug and tune in to your child while nursing; you can play quiet games while nursing (think peekaboo or toddler nursing acrobatics); and of course you can nurse while you cosleep. Take time to snuggle up and nurse your little one soon after you are reunited. Check out these Breastfeeding Past Infancy Resources to see why extended nursing is normal, natural, and healthy.
  7. Snuggle: Regardless of whether you are still nursing your little one, you can get some quality snuggle time in. And if one or both of you have had a hard day, sometimes snuggling by itself is the best medicine – you don’t have to do anything else besides hold each other. But you can add to your snuggle time too: read books, talk about what your child did at school, plan your evening or weekend, play a game (I Spy, 20 questions, etc.).
  8. Roughhouse: “Boys and girls – rambunctious children and quiet ones – all benefit from thoughtful physical play with adults.” Roughhousing, wrestling, and sometimes even tickling, done respectfully, can give you opportunities to playfully connect with your child, help your child work through old hurts, and increase her confidence.4 It can also help children get some of their wiggles out before dinner and bedtime rituals start, making those transitions smoother. Try one of these 20 Fun Ways to Roughhouse with Your Kids.
  9. Work Together: Parents of older children might find that their best conversations happen when they are working alongside their child. Does your child enjoy helping you prepare the food or set the table for dinner? Do you have a child who will open up while you are folding laundry together? Sometimes in the quiet of comforting, everyday tasks, we can find communion and connection.
  10. Laugh: “Sharing a giggle is a basic way to join and connect with children. Laughter automatically brings people closer.”5 Encouraging your child’s sense of humor will not only help you reconnect on a daily basis, but it will also help your child in other areas: laughter can help improve memory, creativity, learning, and alertness; it can reduce stress; and it has numerous health benefits.6 Laughter is a wonderful way to “break through the grumpies”7 and shake off your stress.

How do you reconnect with your little one after an absence?

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Photo 1 adapted (words added) with permission from Wunkai via Flickr Creative Commons
Photo 2 author
Originally published on PhD in Parenting

  1. Many thanks to my friends on Code Name: Mama’s and Natural Parent Network’s Facebook pages for helping me come up with these ideas.
  2. Playful Parenting at 49.
  3. Playful Parenting at 43.
  4. Playful Parenting at 93-101.
  5. Playful Parenting at 79.
  6. 8 Health Benefits of Laughter at care2
  7. Reconnecting Through Laughter at KellyNaturally.com

2 Responses to:
"Nine Ideas to Meaningfully Reconnect with Your Child"

  1. It should be noted to remember to watch your child’s cues. When I had our second baby, my husband had to take over daycare drop offs and pick ups and for a few weeks, he felt really bad every evening because he’d try to talk to our daughter on the drive home and see how her day was and she was not communicative. Turns out, what she really needs when we first pick her up is quiet time to herself. She’s a very shy girl and being around a lot of rowdy kids all day is draining, so she uses the drive home to be quiet and reflect. After a 30 minute drive, she comes through the door bursting with energy and will talk. And then we can reconnect. My husband figured that out in a few weeks, it took me years to figure out why when I picked her up, she’d turn away and not really want to talk or hug.

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