A very good friend of mine first introduced me to thinking about heart connection thinking about connecting our hearts with God’s heart. At the time I thought, ‘that language is really American [she’s from America.] and too emotional/fluffy for me.’ I’ve always naturally not been great at talking about my feelings but have been on a mega journey to become more comfortable with it. So, I tried really hard to come up with my own version but nothing worked as well. Nowadays I am all about hearts connecting!
I’ve found it’s the simplest way to talk about my relationship with God and I’ve also found it’s an incredibly helpful concept when it comes to parenting my kid. I talk to him about how my heart is doing, ask him how is heart is and talk about us being connected every day.
Parenting well without connection is exhausting. When my kid and I feel disconnected from one another we feel frustrated, we both don’t listen to each other and we’re both unlikely to reach a happy outcome. I know that simply the thought of having to invest more into connection can be tiring but honestly, it’s really a small investment for a huge reward. When we’re connecting well I feel like I understand my kid better, his behaviour is way better and, if for some reason, it isn’t then I feel able to handle it and talk to him about it.
I am definitely learning how to do this better every single day but here are some of the ways we create connection in our family:
1. Talking about connection and our feelings
My husband and I really want to be intentional about raising emotionally intelligent kids who are comfortable talking about their emotions and feelings, whether those are positive or negative, and talking about our hearts and connection has been a great platform for exploring that with Big brother.
For example, we always reflect on our days and we’ll ask, ‘how did your heart feel?’ and we talk about how that makes us feel physically and we also answer the question to explore other emotion words. Sharing how we’re all feeling definitely deepens our relationships with a family and we try to build this into conversation as much as possible.
2. Doing his choice of activities (even when I don’t want to)
Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t do every activity my toddler asks me to as it’s not possible, especially with a newborn! However, what I’m talking about is choosing to say yes to some activities you really don’t want to because you know it’ll make their hearts happy.
For me, bathing with my toddler is a somewhat stressful activity but I know that it brings him joy and it makes him feel really connected to me. So, when he asks I make sure I don’t always say no! And I also seek out opportunities to ask him first to have a bath with me.
3. Paying attention and listening well
Let me be the first to admit that
sometimes often I will miss something my kid wants me to see because I’m on my phone or I’m distracted. I know that when my husband does this to me I get really frustrated so why would my kid feel any differently? Choosing to pay attention and listen well is such a simple thing to do for huge heart connection. When I stop and pay proper attention then I can chat to my kid about what is going on in the moment before he gets frustrated that I’m not listening and ‘acts up’.
4. Asking him what would help him feel connected
Asking my kid what would make him feel connected/what he wants in a situation in terms of my attention has been transformational in terms of our connection.
TV is actually one of the ways my kid likes to connect with me. When he’s choosing what to watch I will often ask whether he wants me to watch with him or not.
He likes to watch some incredibly boring educational programmes. Honestly, they almost bore me to tears. And he knows I don’t love to watch those so sometimes he’ll choose to watch one of those on his own. But on other occasions he’ll try to pick something we’ll both enjoy (or at least I’ll act like I’m enjoying!) so we can connect with one another whilst watching. And if he asks me to watch with him then my phone goes down and I pay proper attention, asking questions and listening well to him. It’s actually also been a really simple way to teach him to think about how his choices impact on others.
5. Figuring out his love language and deliberately speaking it
If you haven’t read the 5 Love Languages book by Dr. Chapman I’d really recommend it. The book says that there are five main ways we give and receive love. These are:
– Words of affirmation
– Quality time
– Receiving gifts
– Acts of service
– Physical touch
When we know each other’s love languages (you can do an online quiz here) then we can show each other love more effectively and deepen our relationships.
So, for example my kid has never been a physical touch kid. Even as a baby he’d get really frustrated at being passed around for cuddles and putting him down would often ease his grizzling. But, he feels really loved through quality time (like the TV example above) and through receiving gifts. When I buy him something when he’s at nursery and surprise him with it, even it’s a tiny token of a gift, he is just so full of joy.
It’s been really fun testing how different languages connect with him and helping him explore how to show love. He’s a real gift giver and we’ve often been out shopping and he’s seen something and said we need to buy it for someone.
(There is also a kid version of this book which I haven’t actually read yet – let me know if you have and you’d recommend it!)
6. Planning in connection time
Life can be really hectic and it can be easy to let quality connection time slip out of the day so we find it really helpful to plan it in. My kid is big on knowing what’s happening in the week and each evening he wants to know what’s happening when he wakes up. We make sure as well as listing all the activities we talk about the connection in the day. We call days ‘a Mummy, Big and Little brother day’ and talk about what we’ll do together, and we’ll think about how we’ll connect with Daddy when he gets home. It’s really helped my kid to see relationships as an expected part of the everyday.
This also means that when we’re feeling disconnected we can talk about planning in connection time and looking forward to it. For example, looking forward to a Friday family day and we’ll think about what we can do together.
7. Connecting regularly when we’re apart
When I’m not on maternity leave I’ve stayed away overnight for work occasionally and I always make sure I check in on Facetime. Often my kid will be totally nonplussed and prefer to chat to someone else or continue whatever he’s up to. For me, that means I’m checking in the right amount as he clearly feels connected enough that he’s happy to do other things.
Intentionally creating connection with my kid makes parenting him so much easier. It makes our home happier and it’s helping us all to learn to look after each other’s heart and to fix it when connection is broken. My kid has got such a sweet heart and I want to do everything I can to care for it whilst also teaching him to do the same for our family and for others.
How do you create connection with your kids?