Learning to parent with connection is the most important thing you can do as a parent. In some ways it’s the magic spell that - POOF - makes everything better. But…. (you knew there was a but coming, right?) connection is so different from how we may be used to relating that it can be hard to pull off at first.
I’ve broken it down for you to make it easier for you to know where to start.
Connection comes in three layers. These are three different ways to think about connection. When you stack them together over time, they make the magic happen.
Let’s start with the BIG one - your core connection.
Parenting with connection starts with a strong foundation. This is the basic sense of positivity running through your relationship.
I call it your Core Connection. It’s the strongest feelings you share with your child. The mutual emotional space you share together. The constant sense you have about each other no matter what is going on.
I like to ask, “What ONE word would you use to describe your relationship with your child?” When you have to pick one single word, you get a real sense of how you feel about it. Would you choose a word like strained, hectic, tiring, or hard? You might be disconnected in your relationship. How about a word like peaceful, fun, happy, or friendly? You are probably connected in your relationship.
This foundation level of connection is the big stuff, the total sense of how things are going. Are you having a good time together? Do you share a lot of loving moments? Are you happy to see each other? Can you rely on each other?
You nurture this connection through both big and little actions, time spent together, and goodwill shared between you. It fluctuates some over time, but it’s the broad sense that YES you are having a good relationship.
Continuity is another aspect of your connection. This is maintenance mode. It is maintaining your positive sense of each other through difficult times. It’s being able to be friendly even when you’re tired and cranky. It’s making space for peaceful moments together in the midst of a busy or chaotic time. It’s the skills to fight fair so that you can disagree – passionately, even! – while still maintaining love and care for each other.
Both of you will work on this level of connection together. But as the grownup in the relationship you have a lot of ability to help it along.
You can think of continuity as the combination of both connection and respect. It is how you communicate that you are always connected, even when things aren’t going quite right.
The last type of connection takes place in the now. Right now, right at any one instance. Right inside any particular moment.
This level is about mindfulness. About presence. About empathy. About vulnerability.
This kind of connection is possible anywhere, at any time. It’s doesn’t matter what has gone before, and it doesn’t matter what will come after.
It’s possible when you’re mad at your kid. It’s possible when you’re the happiest you’ve ever been. It’s possible when you’ve never done any other work to improve your connection. It’s possible when you’re an experienced expert at the art of connection. It’s possible when things are going along pretty well. And it’s possible when you just made the fuck up of the year with your kid.
This kind of connection only requires three things.
That’s all. You may or may not make any different decisions based on taking this mindful moment. Either way, you and your child will be more connected. You will be better prepared to meet the next moment together.
You can see now how there are a lot of different skills and habits that weave together to make your connection. But don’t get overwhelmed! There’s no certain order to things, and you can start at any time.
Wherever your relationship is right now, you can start nurturing your connection. You can spend more time together. Communicate more respectfully. Focus more clearly on your child. Share small positive moments.
Your deep connection will serve you well through your whole relationship, and you can always start right now making it better for both of you.
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