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All parents, at times, experience a disconnect from their children—it’s part of being human. But what do you do when you realized you haven’t had quality time with your kid for a while? What if her behavior is so off-the-charts unruly that you can’t even enter a room she’s in without getting an eye roll and a snarky comment?
I’ve been there, and I’ve found the solution for more connection is simple but often not easy. Mostly it’s about getting real, vulnerable, and honest with our kids and ourselves. Here’s a cheat sheet to help you get back to being the parent you want to be.
1. Don’t overschedule. Exhaustion is not a sign of success. Rather, it keeps you from being the real, alive, amazing human being you are. Saying no to something shouldn’t always be saying yes to something else. Being willing to say no and risk seeming like you're not doing enough may challenge some relationships, but it will help build an internal sense of trust and rightness. What’s one yes and one no you’d like to say right now?
2. Don’t let electronics distract you. How much time do you spend with social media, email, television, movies and video games? Time is precious, and for most of us, some of this e-time is well spent and some of it is wasted. Tracking this time can help cultivate discernment, the ability to say yes when you want to say yes and no when you want to say no. You can track time with a notebook and pen or an app. Either way, noticing how you spend your time can help you make choices more aligned with your values. How do you spend your free time?
3. Don’t overeat. No matter what size you are, eating when you don’t need the nourishment is overeating. Fact is, most of us overeat. We do it because we are hungry and undernourished, but not for more food. A longing for connection, acceptance, more rest, easy pleasure and a feeling of being worthy can all prompt us to get out the popcorn popper. What is the nourishment you really crave?
4. Do get honest, real and vulnerable. Honesty frees up energy and is the pathway to connection. Because behavior is driven by unmet needs, honestly acknowledging our feelings and needs allows amazing things to happen. If you struggle with this, getting support from a parent coach can help you learn how to feel what you feel in a constructive way that improves your parenting. When you notice the underlying needs that are driving behavior—yours and your kids’—you can implement more effective strategies. Are your strategies meeting your needs?
5. Do exercise and get outside.Breathe fresh air and connect with nature. Move with your kids. You can help both your family and you get out of couch potato mode, prevent mindless eating and stop using electronics for distraction. Participating in nature—try planting a garden—is a great antidote to our media-driven culture. Seeds take time to germinate and grow. So does connection. What did you do today to get outside?
6. Do replace old, destructive habits with fresh, constructive ones. Sometimes, quick techniques like taking 10 deep breaths, going for a walk or calling a friend can interrupt the habits of escaping with food, media or overcommitment. At other times, we need to go deeper by talking with a neutral person, going on a retreat or removing ourselves entirely from a destructive situation to get the insight we need to make better choices. What’s one activity you could use to interrupt an unhealthy habit?
7. Do connect with something larger than you. Asking questions about the bigger picture and getting curious about the answers can provide balance. What is your beautiful, courageous vision for life, the universe and how things work? Share this vision with your kids. Ask them what they see and what possibilities they imagine. Find books for yourself and your kids that will help inspire these ideas. Once you decide to focus on the big picture, you’ll start to see these opportunities popping up everywhere. What inspired you today?
Finding your own balance with electronics, food and scheduling will help your children as well. They model their behavior after yours (really!). If they see you living a more balanced, values-aligned life, chances are they will try to emulate you. Further, we parents have a wonderful opportunity and a responsibility to plant seeds of kindness into our children so they grow up into healthy, happy people who love and are gentle with themselves and others.
Kassandra Brown is homeschooling mompreneur at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage. She loves coaching parents in self-care, parenting and relationships.
Photo by: Working Mother Editor