Sharpening your parenting skills: Connecting
by Leah Gorham, MAMFC, LPC
Welcome to the second part of the Child Abuse Awareness Trilogy Blog. As I mentioned last week, Dr. Karyn Purvis developed the idea of empowering, connecting, and correcting children to increase attachment and cohesion in families. She called it TBRI® (Trust-Based Relational Intervention®).
Having a newborn baby can be one of the most stressful times in a parent’s life – especially for new parents! The late nights, early morning feedings, and excessive crying could easily make anyone feel overwhelmed. Dr. Purvis believed that you can never hold an infant too much during the first year of their life. This is a prime development attachment stage during which a child is learning to determine who they can connect with and have a trusted relationship with. We are all longing for the same things – we need to know that we matter, we can connect with others, and we can feel safe. In order for our physical needs to be met, we need to connect with others. Connecting is about building a relationship or a bond with someone. It’s similar to when you connect to Wi-Fi, which allows you to connect to the World Wide Web. When you’re connected to your child, you get all the benefits of things they experience.
So how do we connect with our children? Connecting with a 2 year-old will look different than connecting with a 12 year-old, but there will be some overlap. One way to connect is through positive, healthy touch. A high-five, hug, pat on the back, foot massage, fist bump – whatever makes you and your child feel safe.
Lack of appropriate eye contact is a common challenge in our society. Often our heads are down while we’re scrolling through Facebook, Instagram, or other social media on our phones instead of actually maintaining good eye contact with others. Instead, we need to set our phones aside and look our children in the eyes. This will reinforce the message that they are special and what they have to say is valuable and important. I know I’m guilty of not putting my phone down, yet it is something I’m striving to be better at by looking the person I am with in the eyes.
Along with the eye contact, proximity to the child is important. It’s hard to hear what they are saying when we’re not even in the same room. How many times have we been upset by a child yelling at us from across the house? Rather, move closer to them by sitting near or next to them. It becomes easier to be open and honest with someone who is looking at my eyes, sitting near me, and holding my hand.
A great way to build the connection with your child is doing what they like to do or striving to do things together. I recently read an article about how many parents say “no” when they could say “yes.” Here’s an example for you. After a long day of work, a parent comes home and settles down on the couch. As the parent is scrolling on their phone, a kid asks if he can ride his skateboard outside. The parent immediately reacts with a “no” because it would require them to get off the couch. Instead, the parent could say “yes” and put the phone down in order to go outside with the child. While riding a skateboard is not for everyone (definitely not with my balance), being outside with the child and encouraging him is a great way for the parent to connect with their child. I’m a big advocate of family board games or card games that allow for conversations, practice in the art of winning/losing well, and non-tech time.
Often times, we don’t take care of ourselves. As the flight attendant always tells us on airplanes, we have to put on the oxygen mask first. THEN we can help others with their oxygen masks. The rationale is that we aren’t very helpful to others when we’re lacking oxygen ourselves. The same is true for nurturing. We must nurture ourselves through savoring a cup of coffee, our daily workout at the gym, connecting with our significant other/spouse/close friend, or through meditating. We must practice self-care. I have found taking walks through nature to be stress relieving as I’m able to breath in the fresh air. It can look different for each of us, yet the basis is that we must strive to nurture ourselves so we can nurture others. Next week, I’ll finish this blog series with a final blog on correcting.
Leah Gorham, MAMFC, LPC, is the Team Lead at the STARRY-Waco Counseling office that offers free counseling for children and families. She has been a Kid’s Hope Mentor for the past five years and is currently part of Leadership Waco.
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