Parenting is 80% connection and 20% coaching. When I begin my Peaceful Parenting 101 classes with that statement, which was first shared with me by my mentor Dr. Laura Markham, I see a lot of confused looks back at me. Sometimes we all forget that beneath all of our daily ups and downs, parenting is simply a relationship between an adult and a child. When you break it down to that – a relationship – then it makes sense that it is about connection. If I suggested during class that the basis of your partnership with your spouse or your best friend is connection, no one would look twice at me. And what we know about connection in any relationship, but especially with our children, is that connection creates cooperation. The mention of cooperation is when parents really start to listen; we all want cooperation.
Connection is the goal and the first step towards the happiest and healthiest of relationships with our children, our partners, and our closest friends. It is not possible to remain connected all of the time, and so the best that we can do is to pay attention – to notice when we are feeling disconnected and find a way to reconnect. Sometimes reconnecting with your child is as simple as stopping what you are doing when they enter the room and paying attention to them. How good does it feel when someone does that for you? Acknowledge your child, what they are doing, what they are wearing, or the smile on their face. Offer a hug or a kiss and remind them how grateful you are to be their parent. Try it today.
This time of year is the busiest for most of us. Think of all of the ways that the holidays, no matter what you celebrate, can impact our children. Their schedules are disrupted. They are out of their normal routines, with no school and often new or unusual childcare situations while their parents are still at work. Maybe your family travels for the holidays or relatives come to stay with you at your home. Perhaps your child has to give up his or her bedroom for an aunt or a grandparent. The holidays are full of late nights, lots of sweet treats, and excitement. We always have to deal with the inevitable crash and burn from all of it, which so often leads to tears and meltdowns.
This is why we have to keep the focus on connection with our families during this busy season. Of course, this can be a challenge. But to help you along the way, I am going to offer you a list of ideas to help you and your families stay connected throughout the holiday season:
1. The most important thing is to take care of yourself. We all tend to take on too much during the holidays. We cannot take care of our children unless we are taking care of ourselves first. Be sure you are doing something for yourself every day. Your children will feel your anxiety about getting everything done and act out if you do not manage your own emotions first.
2. Keep your children informed ahead of time about your holiday plans. It can be as simple as printing a December calendar and filling it in with your children. Every day sit down with your children and tell them what is coming up. Don’t schedule more than one thing per day. Children need time to hang out, play, and just be.
3. Do less, connect more. Make plans for just you and each of your children too. Schedule some one-on-one time. During that time, perhaps go gift shopping for another family member but turn it into a date with that child. Focus all of your attention on him or her. Relish in your child’s company. Your child will remember those dates forever.
As you move into this holiday season, keep yourself focused on the spirit of the season: love, good cheer, and connection. If we can all take the time to do that, we will move through the month of December with ease and grace.