Hey Mom, You HAVE to come see this sunset!
I came running to the window, standing next to my daughter as we looked in awe at the spectacular showcase of colors filling the sky. We shared that moment. We connected.
One of our children's deepest needs is to feel connected, noticed and loved. Throughout the day, they offer us many opportunities to engage or get our attention. Researcher, John Gottman calls these bids for connection. Bids for connection can be verbal or non-verbal. How we respond to the bids, is essential to healthy emotional connectedness. Three possible responses to these calls for attention are: 1. turning towards, 2. turning away or 3. not responding at all. As we make the choice to turn towards our children, we are filling their emotional bank account and setting them up for emotional success. (Not surprisingly, this concept is true in marriage, as well. With happy and healthy marriages reporting a "bid towards" 9 out of 10 times a bid is offered.)
I found that connecting to my children when they were babies was easy. They loved to pick up things and show them to me. It could be a leaf, a bug or a clump of dirt. They didn't even need words. By showing them to me, they brought me into their world. With each connected moment, they grew more firmly attached to me emotionally and their love tanks were filled.
Depending on your child's personality and interests, answering the bids for attention can get more challenging as they grow older. I have to admit, that I do not always fully turn towards a long explanation of a Lego creation - as my son describes all the weapon systems and vehicle add-ons, I confess I may have been looking towards him but my mind was elsewhere (just being honest). Now that I am aware of it, I am trying to do better. How often are we on our phones checking Facebook or Instagram when our kids are trying to connect with us? (yikes, that hit close to home.)
A young mom shared with me recently that she had made a conscious decision one day this past week, to put aside her household responsibilities and chores to wholeheartedly play outside with her children. Her children were amazed. On reflection, this mom realized she was so often just giving her children 5 minutes of play, here and there, but by putting everything else aside and fully "turning towards", she and her children had the shared experience of an emotionally filling day.
Just as the mom above realized, many things in our fast paced, independence-driven, modern life make connecting challenging. Nature makes connection easy. It provides a wealth of opportunities for focused attention in the same place - for turning towards. By walking outside, leaving behind our distractions - (and boy, are there a lot of distractions!), we are better able to offer ourselves to our kids. Every time we take a walk in the woods, we see things together. Spying an interesting shaped tree or an intricate spider web, my son will call me over and we will observe it together. In our family, seeing a rainbow is a major family event. We all come running. Looking up close at the moss on a tree or listening together to a woodpecker are all opportunities for connection. The natural world invites interactions. Even the simple act of pushing your child on the swing is a pathway to connection. As your child gives an invitation for connection, how will you reply?
This week, try to notice those bids for connection. Create opportunities by spending time outside together. Whether it is marveling at the latest mud pie or going out to check out a tree fort, you are fostering a deep sense of connection which can be drawn upon in the future. If your child asks you to build a leaf pile or play in the sandbox, look at the fun shaped clouds or listen for peepers, consider what type of response you will give.
We are given opportunities every day to make connections happen. How will you respond?
More information about bids for connection with your kids.