Back to School

I love September. Fall is my favourite time of year. Even with a hot sun, the air feels crisp. This is a time for fresh starts and new beginnings.

Autumn LeavesIt’s also a time when families are busy. Kids start school and sign up for extracurricular activities. Days often begin with rushing out the door and end with a flurry of activity and homework. When our schedules are full, this is the time for more play, conversations, and connection to help integrate learning and stay focused on what’s important to us and our relationships. Otherwise, we feel overwhelmed and stressed. More stress means less learning and more conflict.

“Now Stop!” Max said and sent the wild things off to bed without their supper. And Max the king of all wild things was lonely and wanted to be where someone loved him best of all.” Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are

When our children have been with school friends all day, families need to re-connect. In order for parents to have influence, to matter, we need to attract our kids’ attention. There’s no right or wrong way to gain rapport. It’s a matter of getting into each other’s spaces in a friendly way. Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Maté, in Hold onto Your Kids, write,

“Attachment rituals, fuelled by this collecting instinct, exist in many cultures. The most common is the greeting. When fully consummated, a greeting should collect the eyes, a smile and a nod.” Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Maté

“Waking up” and “after school” are two significant times to re-connect with each other. Both occur after times of separation. Mind you, you don’t want to come off sounding like a pushy salesperson. Instead, gauge your greeting and attention grabbing by the reaction you get from your child. You already know when you’re engaged with your child. You’ve seen it in his body posture, facial expression, eyes, and mannerisms. You’ve felt it in your body. There are often feelings of softness, calm, or happy excitement. There’s mutual sharing and curiosity.

Feel free to have fun and experiment with gathering each others’ attention after times of separation. Notice the rapport you have with your children. It began with eye gazing when your kids were babies and it’s a little like a courting dance in which lovers engage. As we get older, some of us still enjoy eye gazing, while others like to hang out together talking, playing, holding hands, or hugging. One of my favourite ways to collect our younger children is to offer a ride on my back. For my older children, we talk about something exciting for them. I take care to match the intensity of my feelings with my child to meet him where he’s at.

All too often our children want to vent after being separated from us all day. Although it’s not easy being a sounding board, being heard is exactly what our child needs after separation. Being witnessed just as we are is a core need. After a quick greeting, you may want to prepare yourself to hear a mouthful of complaints so your child can naturally move towards resolution after being understood. When our children are securely attached to us, they expect us to refill them. Refilling ourselves to be there for our kids is key…but that’s another blog.

“Filling and refilling the child’s cup is the basis of heartfelt parent-child connections. It isn’t something that happens once, but over and over again, in countless mini-interactions over a span of years.” Lawrence J. Cohen, Playful Parenting

How do you refill your child’s cup and re-connect after separation?

Share your top 3 suggestions for connection here.

About Wendy McDonnell

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