1. Put daily “listening time” in your calendar
Connection starts with curiosity. Showing interest and curiosity not only helps your child feel important and special, but also encourages them to do the same towards you! Putting aside time to listen about their day is an essential step: Whether it is 10 or 30 minutes, in the morning before work or at dinner, do make sure to minimise interruptions and focus on understanding their perspective.
2. Reminder: Practice focused attention (4-minute look)
So, you've shown up at dinnertime, intending to listen, but are you really preoccupied with tasks you’ve left undone? Or with judgment and biases about things they may have seen or done? Or with irritation and impatience towards your child who just can’t seem to cooperate with your mindset? Critically, how you show up is probably the dealmaker (or deal-breaker).
You have to communicate, with your verbal and non-verbal cues, that you are making the effort to be emotionally attuned to your child. If you find yourself struggling for the right words, try spending four uninterrupted minutes looking into each other’s eyes without talking, then reflect on the experience.
3. Programme 8 hugs a day in your calendar
Sometimes, the simplest and most powerful way to connect with a loved one is through the power of touch. Hugs can instantly boost oxytocin levels, which can alleviate feelings of loneliness and anger. Holding a hug for an extended time lifts serotonin levels, elevating overall mood. The nurturing touch of a hug builds trust, and this can facilitate open and honest communication.
Virginia Satir, a respected family therapist, said: “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.”
4. Reminder: Vulnerability starts with you
When you are inviting your child to share about their day or their current stressors, remember that communication goes both ways. Being willing to be vulnerable about your hopes, regrets and dreams deepens your relationships.
And when your child senses that you are trying to connect on an authentic level, it encourages them to open up and dig deep, too; most children really appreciate when their parents are 'real' and are sincere in their efforts to know them.
5. Make sure to check in every day
Nurturing interpersonal relationships is very much like growing a healthy plant from a tiny seed. Like watering the seed regularly, check-ins, little acts of love and time spent together all go a long way. Sure, grand gestures may inject surprise and excitement but it really is the little things that add up and leave a lasting impression.
Not sure how to express your love? It might be a good idea to find out their love language (See Dr Gary Chapman's 5 Love Language) and then program it into your phone every day or week. Try not to leave it longer than that…
And when in doubt, an encouraging post-it note in a lunchbox or on the mirror always brings smiles.
Jolene Hwee is the director and counselling psychologist at Womancare Psychological Services. She supervised the couples in the Prudential Relationship Reconnect social experiment www.prudentialreconnect.com.sg.
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