Be part of the IN crowd
One thing I can pretty much guarantee all children will bring to a family, are situations which you will all remember, for many years to come. The aim should be to form good ones, ones where both sides see the funny side and no one person is being singled out or ridiculed for the enjoyment of others.
There is a world of difference between having people laugh along with you, and having them laugh at you.
One of the big benefits of spending time with your kids is learning about their humour, about connecting with them in a way which is super special to you, and them. Having ‘In’ jokes is a great way to connect the family and something no one else can take away from you.
My youngest likes to drop the occasional classic contradictory statement. She has been known to usually always do this! She also has the capability to form an almost perfect half circle frown or smile. This led to the two of us competing to simulate emoji expressions in the mirror, which led to much amusement and hilarity, but does not sound as much fun when described to others!
Having such memories can help defuse more sensitive or tense situations, the use of humour is a great way to deflect your child’s thoughts away from the current situation. Using an in joke to do this can help to hide what you are doing from those around you, as they don’t understand the context. Now if my youngest is sulking, I just pull my own emoji sulk face, this makes her frown even more and eventually there will be a slight upturn in the corners of her mouth as she loses focus on her mood and starts to remember our stupid competition.
You can be more intentional with your connections. Setting up secret handshakes, calls or signs, all of which mean something to you, but not to others, are great ways to communicate without words. These can help let others in the family know where you are, or what you are feeling, without informing the whole world.
We set up a secret squeeze with our girls. Something we could do while holding their hands while they waited their turn or were watching what was happening. This allowed us to check in with them, to see how they were feeling, without the need for words, which could have embarrassed them in front of their friend’s. In just a few little squeezes I could pick up if they were feeling brave and comfortable, or if they needed more time and space to get involved. It was also a good way to check that things were still ok between us if words had been said and they were in their not talking to me stage.
This idea can be extended to personal safety when your child is more independent and attending parties etc. Having a secret text word or way of setting up their message can indicate a need for help, without alerting others around them. Great for your piece of mind, as well as theirs.
We realised that with everyone accessing TV on their own devices we were missing out on the everyday banter which occurs when you have watched the same thing. This is occurring in the workplace and in the home. There is less commonality of conversation which can make general conversation harder for those, like me, who are not particularly good at general news related gossip.
In my day we lots of great films to choose from. Even if you were not old enough to watch them, you would pick up from everyone else what they were about, especially when playing let’s pretend in the playground. Films such as Top Gun, Terminator, Alien etc. have all produced some classic one liners and phrases. These shared experiences and knowledge connect me to my age group and wider culture.
“I feel the need, the need for speed”,
“I’ll be back”
“In space no one can hear you scream!”
and other sayings don’t have the same impact if you have never seen the films.
Having on demand TV has changed the way we are all watching it, which means we are missing out on these subtle connection opportunities.
When we sat down to watch a film together we had to encourage our youngest to come and sit in the living room with us, so she could at least hear what was going on, even if she was not really watching. Her looks of complete confusion when we were quoting things made me feel that she was missing out.
If you want to know the number one best place to connect, it is at home, at the dining table, while sharing a meal. It really does make a difference to the dynamics when everyone is sitting and eating together. Even if you are not able to do this every night then try for at least once a week. If your kids are not keen then let them choose what you eat. If doing this is new to you, then you start and share your day, hopefully the others in your family will pick up the idea and share to.
We found that if we asked how their day was we would get the usually “ok” or similarly short response, whereas if we asked
“can you tell me one thing you enjoyed, one thing you didn’t enjoy and something which you found funny”,
a lot more information was forthcoming.
If your child does share something that interests or concerns you then feel free to ask more questions, but try not to turn it into some form of inquisition. They may prefer to talk about more difficult things later, rather than in front of the rest of the family.
When my eldest was eight she told me that she had enjoyed cutting out flowers, did not like her Jandles breaking and thought her teacher was funny as she forgot her own name had changed (she had just got married).
On another day we had the following conversation.
“I need to go back to school to practice at midnight” said my eldest
“That’s a bit late for a practice” we said, “Is it definitely midnight?”
“Yes” she said.
“Well it won’t be tonight as they would have told us.”
Later in the meal she remembered that she had a school newsletter in her bag and went to get it for us. One of the articles was about the schools upcoming show, ‘The midnight Library’! We were relieved that this was where ‘midnight’ came from.
If you have more than one child then putting aside uninterrupted time for each, will help you to form much stronger connections. Try letting them take the lead in deciding what you do in their time, let them show you what they are into and interested in. By letting them take charge you will get to see a side to them you otherwise would miss. The length of time is less important than your focus, so agree what you can do within your family’s limitations.
If your child is struggling to find their passion this is a good time to introduce them to yours, and to discover new ones together. Doing a hobby or exploring an interest together is a great way to spend your time and build a more intimate connection with your child. I learnt about cake decorating, dog agility training and rock climbing, all by spending time on my kids interests.
As one person so nicely put it, connect, communicate, collaborate!
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