The Connection Challenge
By Emily McAllister, Life Coach
Feeling connected to our children is one of the greatest feelings in the world. Yet it can often seem illusive to us.
When my children were in third grade, they were given an assignment to research a person in history and then portray that person in a Living History Museum. They were assigned various people and for weeks they learned everything they could about Benjamin Franklin, Anne Frank and Caesar Chavez. They wrote a report, identified an item which their person might have owned and created a costume to portray their person. Then for three hours they became those historical figures, telling hundreds of kids and adults who “they” were. I felt like I knew these figures just as well as my kids did. Recently when I went to a history museum and saw a sign that said, “Si Se Puede” I thought “Caesar” (see how connected I feel, evidently, we are on a first name basis).
You might ask though, what this has to do with feeling connected to my child.
Simply this, when our thoughts are invested in something or someone, we feel a connection. I will never meet any of those historical figures yet I feel a connection to them.
Why? Because, in my thoughts I believe I know them, personally.
The same is really true with our children as we become acquainted with them, we can feel more connected to them. You might be thinking, I already know my child, I know everything about them. I am not discounting that, but what you know about them and how you judge those things might be a totally different thing.
For the next week what would it look like if you tried to find out new information about your child? What would happen if you asked different questions? What would happen if you just let them tell you everything they think, or feel, or are interested in without judging as good or bad?
I recently realized the power of this when my kids received a video game for Christmas. As a preface, I am horrible at video games, I tend to often think they are ruining my kids’ brains and also that they are a waste of time. Just for the record my children are not video game addicts, and are pretty regulated in these activities. However, the day after Christmas as they excitedly told me about how much fun they were going to have and how they wanted to play the game together, and how you can use all these new characters, my entire reaction to them came directly out of my thoughts. I crushed any sort of connection I could have felt in that moment with all three of my children. I didn’t feel connected, I felt frustrated. What would have happened if I would have listened to understand? What if I had been curious about something they love and were excited about?
I know if I change my thoughts to, “I want to understand” I will feel connected. When I change my thoughts to, “I am so curious why they love this” then I feel connected. And guess what, when I feel connected, I engage more, I listen more, I laugh more, I understand more. When all of that happens, I actually get to what I want, which is “I FEEL CONNECTED”. It is crazy, and beautiful and so powerful.
So, this week, I want to challenge you to be curious. Try sitting with your child or calling them on the phone and asking them about something they are really excited about. Then just listen. Take in everything they say, be curious about why they are excited. When those pesky thoughts come up with any sort of critique or judgement, remind yourself this is just about information gathering and connection.
We would love to hear how it goes.