Episode 18: How to Connect with your Kids

Have you ever wondered why connection is so important for our kids and how the heck we’re supposed to connect when time is in such short supply? In this Q/A episode, I answer some of these questions from listeners and discover how small connections can make a significant impact on your child’s mental and emotional well-being. Together, we delve into the fascinating world of connection, emphasizing the beautiful bond we share with our children and how to strengthen it amid the hustle and bustle of life.

Starting from the intriguing aspects of connection, we explore how these everyday moments can create a sense of security for our children, and we address the tricky realm of maintaining our connection, especially during the moments when our kids are upset. Most importantly, we share some effective strategies to keep this bond strong even when time is scarce, underscoring the power of prioritizing connection in a healthy and smart way. Ultimately, even the smallest moments of connection can have a lasting impact on our children’s lives.

Join us to uncover these valuable insights and empower yourself to foster stronger connections with your children.

What you will learn on this episode:

– The importance of establishing strong emotional bonds with your children

– The impact of small, meaningful moments on your child’s emotional well-being

– How to prioritize connecting activities with your children amidst multiple responsibilities

– How to avoid guilt and shame while trying to connect with your children

– How to connect with your children in practical ways, regardless of time constraints

– The concept of rituals in parenting and their impact on the emotional bond with your children

– How to avoid guilt and shame while trying to connect with your children

– How to avoid all-or-nothing thinking and unrealistic expectations around connection 

– The impact of your efforts on your child’s self-image and life

– The importance of play and lightheartedness in fostering connections with your children

– The importance of setting intentions and keeping connection with your kids top of mind

– The significance of counting the things you’re already doing in fostering connections



Let’s Connect! 

I absolutely love to hear your thoughts and get your questions. 

You can email me at:  Leighagermann@gmail.com

I can’t wait to hear from you!



This podcast is not intended to provide mental health treatment.  Leigh Germann is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and not a doctor, psychiatrist or psychologist.  She does not provide diagnosis nor offer therapy through the LeighGermann.com website or in the information offered on the website. It is important that you do not disregard professional medical or mental health advice or delay seeking professional medical or mental health treatment because of any information on the LeighGermann.com website including but not limited to blogs, newsletter, videos, podcasts, e-books, programs, webinars, courses and other services. Leigh Germann and offerings on LeighGermann.com are not providing legal or financial advice, business advice, psychotherapy, supervision, religious advice, or medical advice. The information contained on this Website has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.

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*This transcription below was provided for you or your convenience; please excuse any mistakes that the automated service made in translation.

Hi, and welcome to leadership parenting. I am here with another question and answer episode, and these are really fun and I just am enjoying them so much. So please keep sending me your questions. And the questions today are all about connection. They’ve come from some of the discussion we’ve had in an earlier episode on connection and I think that got some of us thinking about how can we specifically connect to our kids. So let me read three of the questions that came in around connection. Number one how can I create more meaningful moments with my children while I’ve got such a busy schedule and daily responsibilities? Number two as a working mom, I often feel guilty about not spending enough quality time with my kids. How can I overcome this guilt and make the most of the time that we have together? And number three I know connection is important, but I’m not sure exactly what it is I’m supposed to be doing to really connect with my children. Will you tell us what you did to connect with your kids? Okay, thank you so much for these questions and I will try to answer them in a way that applies to all of us, and I just have to say that all of the moms I work with express these feelings. 

I hear these questions coming up in my sessions with women all the time. I never meet with a woman ever, either as a client or just random. I never meet with a woman I think I can say never, pretty confidently either as a client or just randomly in life. A woman that says, oh my gosh, my life, it’s so free, I have so much time, I get to do everything I want. I don’t know what I can do with all this leftover time, like maybe they’re out there, but I really don’t think so. Who I think is really out there are women who are going through this very real sorting of priorities, making these hard decisions in how they’re going to spend their time and their energy and having a lot pulling on that pot of energy that they’ve got to try to divvy up and figure out how to use. And I really do believe that putting connection with our kids on that priority list and up at the top of that priority list that this is vitally important. 

And because we care about this so much because that was a pretty hefty statement that I just said I also want to say up front that we need to make this a no guilt zone today, because I’m going to talk about the importance of connection, especially regarding your children, and you’re going to start looking at that connection and you’re probably going to start looking at that connection and how it’s playing out at your house. And then, because you have a brain that works hard for you, you might start to want to measure yourself and your family and I’m also going to share some connection ideas and then it might really get easy to start to compare and judge how you are doing. So let’s just make a pact right now that we’re going to watch out for that and catch it, catch it and notice. That’s the only reason we do this is because we care about it. So let’s make a pact right now that we’re going to watch out for that and we’re going to catch it and we’re going to notice it, because the only reason why we’re starting to get into that kind of worry, judgmental shame mode is because we really care about it, and that is really the only thing that matters. 

When you focus on what you care about not the measurement, but on what you care about, what’s underneath that, with understanding and compassion, you can get off the shame and guilt treadmill and your energy is going to open up and you’re going to be able to be more creative and learn and have some energy to actually try some new things. Or you might even just sit back and say, yeah, I don’t need to try anything new. Right now, I am connected with my kids and I feel really good about what we’re doing and I can take a breath. So this is not a conversation that is meant to shake up your world and make you rethink everything because you feel so bad about how things are going. This is a conversation that is meant to open your mind to possibilities, maybe give you some ideas that will be helpful to you and hopefully just help you feel a little more confident about how easy it is for us to get bits and drops of connection with our children that are going to really serve our relationships. So this is a building episode, not a breaking you down episode. Okay, pinky promise on that. Okay. 

So let’s look at what we’re trying to do when we talk about connection. First. Connection is not only good for us, we need it. First. Connection is not just good for us, we actually need it, and we did a whole episode on the power of connection. So if you haven’t listened to that yet I invite you to go to episode number 13 and check that out In a quick review. Connection is the thing that calms our nervous system down. It gives us the sense of safety and well being, and that is connection to self, connection to others and connection to something that is bigger than us. And as we talk about connection to our children, there’s a whole other element of power in how connection helps strengthen the attachment between child and parent, and this is because healthy child development needs connection. We know this through our study of attachment theory. 

Attachment theory in simple terms, explains the emotional bond between parents and their kids and suggests that the way parents respond to their children’s needs, especially in early life, that that affects how a child develops and especially how they feel about themselves as they grow. So when we think of attachment, I want you to think of like an invisible string that connects a parent and their child. It’s kind of like a force. When a baby cries or expresses a need, like they need to be fed or comforted, and a parent responds with love and care, this strengthens and secures that powerful invisible force between child and parent and it creates a secure attachment. And that involves connection. The child feels safe, loved and from there they can learn to trust themselves and trust others. According to the theories of John Bulby, children are securely attached if they’re confident of a parent’s support, accessibility and responsiveness, and when these things occur, parents become a secure base. That’s his word, secure base. I like to call it a home base. It’s foundational a home base for our kids so they can feel secure enough to explore the world and come to understand themselves and, eventually, others. So attachment is one of the key tasks and responsibilities of our parenting. 

Okay, don’t you wish that we somehow got this explanation before we had kids, or even as we are having kids, like I think it would be so great to link our maternal pregnancy care with our pediatric care and have some classes whereas parents to be, we learn these things, like childbirth classes and parenting attachment classes, and right now, parenting classes are still kind of seen as remedial, like meaning, if you have a problem, you go to get some extra help in parenting, and we all need this information. This is not remedial information. It should be education straight up, and that’s why I’m so passionate about this and that’s why this podcast is called Leadership Parenting and that’s why we break it down and we study. What do we need to do as parents to do our job effectively in creating the foundation for our children and holding it for them as they grow while we hang on to ourselves? Because I believe we need this information so that, when we know what our kids need and what we need, we can actually. It kind of helps us make sense of our own injuries too, doesn’t it Like? Maybe we can even learn to heal some of our own hurts so we can feel stronger and more capable of giving our kids what they need. 

So, as I’m talking here, I think you know, the more I think about it, I think I’ll do a whole episode on this in more depth on attachment, so we can explore it further, but for now, let’s get back to our questions about connecting with our kids. So what’s the difference between connection and attachment? Connection is the feeling of being noticed, important, remembered and known, being surrounded by people who love you, who accept you, for you, for who you are. And I’m going to kind of put out there that connection really is more about how you are feeling and how your child is feeling, about your relationship, versus how much time is spent or what the actual activities are that we do to connect. So we’re defining connection as more of a feeling. Now and that’s what makes this a little bit tricky and a little bit hard, because we’re not making it so clear cut we’re going after a feeling, and connection can show up in what you do with your child, how you listen to your child, especially how you respond to your child, and even how you talk and interact with your child. It involves facial expressions, how you greet them, how you communicate your feelings about them, and when you kind of try to get a vision of this, think of your favorite high school teacher or elementary. And when you try to get a vision of this, maybe you can think of your favorite high school or elementary school teacher. I bet it’s the one who knew you, who made you laugh, helped you out, maybe even you took your lunch into the classroom and ate with them once in a while, because they knew you and you felt safe with them. That’s a feeling of connection. So it’s not just the time, the sheer number of minutes or the things that you do together. It’s the feeling that you have, that they have after being with you. 

My husband did this really well with our kids because he traveled a lot and was at work all day, but he found ways to connect with each of the kids. He made breakfast sandwiches at six in the morning for my boys who had early football and golf practice. He would leave little notes on my daughter’s pillow randomly asking her a question or telling her something he admired about her, and she would respond like that have this little conversation back and forth by leaving notes on her pillow and on his desk, not necessarily every day, but every so often, and I didn’t even learn about this until a lot later and my girls were telling me about this he would. He made up a silly handshake with our youngest daughter that took like 20 seconds and they still do this fun handshake today, even after she’s grown and married. And yeah, he spent hours attending dance recitals, football games, sports games, choir concerts, driving kids to practice, taking kids on dad trips, coaching teams and following golf rounds in like the heat. But the kids and the kids coaching teams and following golf rounds and 100 degree heat and the kids remember those things. 

But I think it might be the really small things that actually laid the foundation of that home base. So we’re looking to use connection to help the attachment process. This bonding is necessary for our children and it blesses our life as well, because the more connected you are with your child, the better you’ll feel inside, because connection is that soothing force to our nervous system and this is why we can feel so bad when we have an argument or have to hold our ground with our kids around a boundary and they get mad at us. That hurts so much for us, doesn’t it? Sometimes it hurts so much that it’s tempting to give into things we shouldn’t, or even to lash out right back at the child who says something hurtful. That feels like it breaks that connection for us. 

And I remember my kids getting really mad sometimes and saying I don’t like you to me. Or like one of my grandchildren said to their mom recently stinky mommy and man, it was like a dagger. I could see it in her eyes, it was a dagger in her heart and I can remember how that felt. It kind of made me want to say oh, please don’t say that I’ll do anything, or the opposite. Oh, yeah, well, I don’t like you either. You know that retaliation, that protection, and our job as parents is to recognize this and hold the connection on our end and not retaliate and not give in. I remember saying like, after trying to calm down well, I love you, even though you’re really mad right now and no, you can’t have ice cream for breakfast or whatever that thing was they were mad about. 

Ultimately, we want our connection to be this container that we build, that holds our relationship with our children. And we build the container first in our minds. And this is really important because this starts with us building a container first in our minds, in our understanding of what kids need and also understanding what our responsibility is in providing it. We are the grown ups, they are the children. This is not their job to connect with us. They do connect with us and that’s partly why I think they’re so adorable is they help us be connected to them. They say the funny, cute things, they’re snuggly, they smell good. Biologically, they actually have all of those things built into their brain and our brain, so they are desirable to us from a connection standpoint that we we are drawn to, that we are drawn to them. 

But when things get rough, when things get tough, it’s so important we understand the responsibility of connection and holding that container. Building that container is ours as a parent, no matter what your child is going through. Once we understand that this is our job and like this is the part I want us to be taught as we, they hand us our baby. Oh yeah, here’s your manual. This is what you need to be doing. Bit by bit, tiny act by tiny act, we actually create that container of attachment and relationship, and I want you to understand that this is our job and, like this is the part I want us to be taught as we have attachment and relationship, and I want you this is where we’re going to pause and check in and see where you’re at on this kind of self evaluation and make sure that you’re in a safe, strong place, because what I’m trying to tell you here is that this really matters. This is a key, pivotal point of health in raising your children, and I’m also trying to start out here explaining to you that so much of this is natural, so much of this is tiny acts of service and response and showing up that you are already doing so. I want you to check that box. You would not be listening to this podcast if you were not already doing these things. So if you’re going to judge yourself, I want you to check the box and say, yes, I’m doing it. I want you to connect with your child because it creates the strong relationship. 

And parenting needs to come from relationship, not from authority. Okay, I’m going to say that one more time slower parenting needs to come from relationship, not from authority. And I don’t mean just a good relationship all the time, I mean this bit by bit. Strengthened relationship you have with your child over time allows you to use your authority. When you parent, you have authority. You can walk in and, just you know, give orders, you can walk in and make decisions. You can make sure that kids are fed and clothed and, like you know, anybody can do that. You’re doing it and its power in your doing. It is because of the relationship that you build. 


And connection starts at the very first contact with your baby, the very first moment they put that baby on your chest, the very first moment you hold your baby, responding to, responding to the cries, the whimpers, the touches, the pats on the backs, the way you coup and whisper and talk to them, the way you feed them when they’re hungry, change their diaper, look them in the eyes, and do all of that a hundred times a day, and then it expands as they grow and they get to be toddlers and you talk to them and try to understand their new language and babbles and smile and encourage and soothe and get up and get up with them at night. I could just go on and on. All the little meals, the questions that help you give throughout the day, day after day after day. I have so many moms tell me they have a life that is menial, menial tasks, kind of mind numbing, and I know I remember that feeling. All of those things feel so basic, so repetitive, but through the lens of connection, attachment and bonding, these are developmental necessities. Every response to your child builds safety into their neural networks, right into their brains. And I’m going to say that again too, because in our culture we diminish this, because we can’t see it. 


This work you do doesn’t earn money, it doesn’t produce a product that you can put on the market. Its value is not measurable from the outside. But what it actually does is far more important. You’re literally building your child’s brain just by being their mother and responding to them in the sweet and fun times and responding to them, and responding to them through the meltdowns and the hard times, I’d say especially through the meltdowns and the hard times, they’re learning that they are still lovable and acceptable, even if they’re not perfect. Every smile, every touch, hug, drink of water wipe of their nose, their face, their bottom, every giggle, every boundary you hold, every meal you serve, every tucking into bed, every good morning, it all counts. It all builds connection. 


I’m not going to give a specific checklist of things, because there isn’t one. You just have to build your container of connection in your way, in a way that your child can relate to and participate in. That’s the only requirement. This has actually been studied. Are there some specific ways that work better? Like are soft spoken moms better at doing this than outspoken moms? Like, really quiet, gentle moms better at this than kind of loud and boisterous moms? Nope, if you are soft spoken or outspoken, you can always see your child and connect to them. They need to be seen, they need to feel accepted and important. So we actually have so much more freedom to parent in a way that matches our style. 


And so some of these questions that’s why I started with this kind of awareness Some of these questions could possibly set us up to believe that there is a right and wrong way to do this and that perhaps I could give you my ways. That would be the right ways for you, and I will share some of the ways that I did it and that my husband has done it, how we did it in our family. But the big takeaway is that you get to do this in your way and, as a matter of fact, it’s important that you do it in your way. And another question that one of the moms is asking is how to connect when there just isn’t any time. And I get it. 


We are so busy legitimately busy and there are so many ways to connect that take little to no time at all, and there are ways to connect that take lots of time and kind of medium requirements for time and resources. So I just want to say we need to understand the importance of connection and prioritize it in a healthy and smart way. You know, we make time for the things that matter most to us and we’ll go through all kinds of different ways to connect in just a little bit, but I’m hoping we see it connection, but I’m hoping ultimately, the takeaway from all of this is that we see connection as a priority that maybe gets a little higher on our list and we have permission to go about it in so many different ways that it doesn’t bring on stress, no overwhelm. Wherever you are, there is something you can do and then seek to find a little more time where you can ramp up the connection once in a while. So let’s look at how to do this in a realistic way. 


First, when we’re defining connection, I really want you to define it by a sense of feeling rather than a measurement of time or doing a specific thing. So, right off the bat, this is that different viewpoint and I know that’s not a very clear definition, but it’s part of that huge bucket of options that help kids and parents feel connected. Scrap that, I know this isn’t a very clear definition, but we’re gonna lay that down as our baseline because we’re gonna be talking about a lot of different ways to connect and the most important thing is that we just look at whatever it takes for a child to get that sense, that feeling. That’s what we’re going for. We’re not trying to check off boxes on any of these lists and things I’m going to talk about as examples. So of course, you can have big connection items, big ways that you kind of have big ticket items that increase connection and that’s good for all of us. 


Once in a while, right Trips away together with one of your children that would be a big ticket item that takes a lot of resources, a lot of time, a lot of money. Coverage for you at home, maybe at work, that’s awesome, and so much can happen when we’ve got these big sets of time that we’ve kind of set aside where we don’t have to pay attention to everything else. That’s why we go on vacation, that’s why we have dates, that’s why we have celebrations. It’s when we say this is the thing we’re focusing on right now and everything else needs to take a step back. But that’s only one kind of connection. We can also have mid-sized connections that don’t necessarily take as much time as many resources. That’s like a mommy or daddy date. 


My husband and I did this off and on as our kids were growing. We’d take one day a week and alternate, me taking one kid, and the next week my husband would take a different kid out on a maybe a Friday night or a Saturday morning. Sometimes we’d do it, you know, like on a weekday night We’d go to a movie or an ice cream date or bowling or skating and so we had five kids, so maybe each kid would get a date with one of us once a quarter. Okay, that’s kind of a long time to wait for your turn and so, as you can imagine, we’re not putting a lot of our expectations on our kids’ connection needs being met by these one-on-one dates, because they’re not getting them very often. It was just one thing, that kind of boosted opportunities for us to have time to talk, to laugh, to kind of boundary out some time to increase our connection On a little bit of a lesser scale. 


We do stay up late dates and the kids loved stay up late dates. I would even give them coupons for stay up late dates, as you know, like a gift or as rewards, because they thought that was the coolest thing to take turns. I would take turns with one child getting to stay up later than the rest of the other kids and maybe we would have hot chocolate. Or one thing we all love to do was go stargazing and we’d take a lounge chair out on the grass and you know, after everybody’s in bed and it’s dark and we would look up at the stars, sometimes we’d get a book out and see if we could identify the constellations. It cost us nothing and we could do it even if my husband was traveling or, you know, if we couldn’t leave the house. That was an example of something that just didn’t cost as much, and, once again, we did not do this all the time. 


And then there are the really small connections, and these are actually my favorite. They’re the ones you’re already doing. Like this is your free space on your bingo board. You probably don’t even recognize it. It’s the way you make eye contact or look up when your child walks into the room. It’s stopping what you’re doing and listening to something that they want to tell you. These small things may seem so insignificant, and my guess is that you’re probably not even counting them, but these are the ones that actually make a huge impact. 


You know, I have a journal from when I was young like really young but I was looking through it randomly the other day and I read an entry from when I was 12 years old, and this is what the entry said it was a good day. I love my dad. I asked him for a piece of gum and he stopped everything he was doing and went to find me one. That was it. That’s all I wrote Now for me later, looking back on that. You know my dad died when I was 15. So I don’t have a lot of memories of him, but they’re all about me. 


But this one for some reason, struck me as a 12 year old. It struck me enough that I wrote it down. I felt seen important and a priority. Small things, something I’m sure he would never even remember if I were able to ask him about it. And your kids may not notice these things. They may not remember these things and I don’t think we should expect them to be writing these things down in their diaries, but they are making notations and marks on their brain. So when you say you are just a mom, I want to literally cry. I want to make this so much more evident to us as a society that what you do as a mom, as a parent, it matters and it’s not the big stuff. 


If we see connection as always being big ticket items, then yeah, there’s not going to be time to connect, especially if we have more than one child. What most people have in their head for connection time is very idyllic. It’s like a perfect version. And there’s this idea and we, you know like we have to be playing with each of our children for an hour a day or a certain number of minutes a day, and you know that might work for you there’s some great research on child led interactions for not huge number of minutes a day, actually, even in the research, small minutes a day and that might work for you, but also it might not. 


I remember stepping back periodically and assessing my connections with my kids Like that was part of my mothering job. And, by the way, you guys, I see your mothering as a profession. I see it as having goals and having best practices, and this was one of my best practices to step back and do an assessment and decide what I needed to adjust. And I remember when my youngest girls were born, I was already on the run crazy schedule with my boys constantly in the car, driving to practices and games, and those girls lived in the car. It really felt like that. So during one of my stepping back times where I was doing an assessment, I decided I needed time with them on their level. When they weren’t strapped in the car, so for a while. 


When they weren’t strapped in their car seats in the car, so for a while, I made it a goal to play with them on the floor, on the family room floor, for a few minutes each day, like that was one of my tasks in my mind, just and I’m talking five minutes to actually roll around with them, get on their level, and we rolled and sometimes we danced and I let them kind of climb on me. All those things I used to do with my little boys when I was home more, and you know it was all novel. They were learning to crawl and I’d get down on the floor with them. Well, these girls were kind of learned all those tasks on the run. I mean, their brothers taught them how to walk by playing with them back and forth while I was making dinner, and I saw that there was a little piece of connection between me and them on their level as toddlers. That required playfulness, that required physical activity, that required touch. And so I would have on my list pick up the boys. Three o’clock, you know, and before that two o’clock, I’m going to roll around on the floor with the girls. Maybe it wasn’t that specific, but what I’m saying is it was small, five minutes. 


I remember after a few years of playing cars with my boys constantly and I hit my limit, like I could not play cars for long anymore. My mind was like mush. So when I had a son who wanted me to play cars, or the girls even dolls or dress up or house, I would say yes for 10 minutes. And I found that if your child asks you to do something with them, we really can be flattered, like that’s a choice, that’s a thought we could have instead of oh my gosh, I have to play cars again. I don’t know if I could do this. I could also think they’re asking me to do something with them. I am flattered by that. They are desiring connection. It literally it’s such a compliment to be asked by your kid to do something with them, and we can be so busy and so tired. It’s hard to feel that way, right? So what I tell parents is this can you say yes, even if it’s for five or 10 minutes? What kids will remember is the yes. They won’t remember how long you spent. That is connection at play. 


I watched my sister-in-law do this really well. She had five kids too and I never forgot as and I I never forget this as we were visiting her one trip how many times she got up from the table or whatever she was doing in the kitchen during the weekend. We were there and when we were talking she would just stop and keep, keep talking. But she’d just go into the room with her kids and I remember her saying hey guys, we can play Ring around the rosies three times before dinner and it took like three or four minutes and I remember just kind of watching her do it, like like I, it just showed up in her head and she just walked over and did this fun little game with the kids and everyone was in giggles when she was done and then she went right back up to and then she went right back to her grown up stuff and I really learned from watching her. 


You know, I don’t think many adults want to play on the floor all day. We’re not children. Our brains really don’t get satisfied by that anymore. We have different play, different things we like to do with our extra time and we really can’t afford to trade that for child’s play all the time. But I think we can sometimes forget that we don’t need to spend a lot of time to satisfy a child’s connection needs. So this mom’s question about feeling overwhelmed with yet one more thing to do is definitely going to make it seem like she has no more room for connection. But I’m hoping we can open up the possibility for small things to make the difference for us. And you know, first off, counting the things she’s already doing. So like she’s like, ah, I, you know, on the measurement scale, I, I need to fill it up and I’m like, no, you’re probably already pretty, pretty full. And I’m like, no, you’re probably already more full than you realize. It might not feel like you have any time at all to do anything else, not even for small things. But I bet if you give it a try, you’ll start to find that you do have that time, that two minutes, even that 30 seconds, and we can let go of all the all or nothing thinking about this, which I think only comes from us having really big hearts and ideal dreams. 


And I would always fall into this trap, like when I was feeling pretty calm and rested, like I was in a good moment, I would make this grand plan about what I wanted my parenting to look like with my kids. And I remember doing this at the beginning of summers. For a couple of years, actually probably every year, I tried this because I always wanted summer to be this grand adventure. I had this fantasy of like this amazing summer experience in our house, and so I’d plan on having each week be a theme with outings and art, crafts and field trips and of course I was always on the same page. Or, if I had a meeting, a book heißic, what I would have doing. And from Sarah Radeickis to V arise of who had two families and, more importantly, as the�ow down that mix of excavation with comics for the next school days, like in the other two, feedbacks like what do we have a school do? Or depth of editing in the middle of the school, which is great, greatest potential, three in two series. 


I found that the kids didn’t really want all of that. You know, sometimes I think we get a big idea of what our kids want, and so by the end of the first week maybe 10 days I’d have to adjust to what we could do and made sure that we actually got more sleep, probably especially me. I got more sleep and finally just learned to let the summer happen and focus on doing less and trying to be with them more in little moments and make connections here and there and then, once in a while, go for some of those mid-range or larger time commitment connections. So we evolve as moms and our all or nothing thinking comes from our values. Right, it’s not really. It’s not a sign that something’s wrong with us. It’s a normal thinking trap that human beings have and it’s sourcing from our values and desires and we can learn to work with those so that we’re still living from our values. But how we’re doing it is much more doable, and thinking that we need massive and grand connections to bond and attach with our kids is part of that. 


All or nothing thinking. It’s just too much pressure, as if we’ve gotten nothing else going on, like I remember just struggling to get through a day and thinking about upping connection during those times feels almost impossible. And if you’re working outside of the home, that means you have two professions. If you’ve got a second profession and you’re working outside of the home, if you’re a single parent, if you’ve got multiple children, if you’re dealing with any health challenges or you’re pregnant or you’re moving or you’re in a job change or you’re dealing, I mean we’ve got a lot going on. So the best news ever is that by small acts we grow secure attachments you don’t need a lot of time to connect with your child. What you need is a vision and intention and a plan. 


So let’s break these down. The vision we start with a vision of you and your kids feeling bonded and I really try to hold the big picture in mind, the big vision of feeling a connection with your kids where you’re the safe and stable home base. And this is going to include all sorts of ways you connect that are fun and feel good, and it includes you connecting in ways that don’t feel so fun, where you set and hold boundaries and you deal with the hard challenges. So it’s not all fun and games, it’s connection that is stable. This is why we need to have a clear vision of what connection is reliable responses, where you help your kids feel loved and safe and you tell them no and you teach them lessons that will help them shape their values and their behaviors. This grand vision is not like a Disneyland version of parenting. It is about your child feeling seen. There’s that feeling word feeling seen, heard, understood, accepted, committed to and loved, and this can happen in literally a thousand different ways. 


The intention I want you to be educated about this process so you can set your intention when parents ask me how to be a good parent. I don’t teach them a single framework here. I tell them what to look for and they create the framework that works for them. So if your intention is to connect with your child, then how you do it will have to be flexible, by sheer nature of parenting, because your kids change. Connecting with a newborn looks different than connecting with a teenager, although both probably mean you’ll get way less sleep at night. But, jokes aside, if you hold your intention solid in your mind, you will give yourself permission to adapt, to shift, to change, to repair when it doesn’t go the way you want it to, to learn as you go, and you and your child are teaching each other. Wouldn’t that be great, as they hand you that baby, that you just had that acceptance. I’m going to learn as I go. This baby is going to teach me what he or she needs. I actually had to parent each child differently and I had to adapt as each child grew. So the only thing set in stone is your intention and you can always go back to that to get settled and clear and decide from there. 


So hopefully I’ve sold you on the idea why connection is important as a vision and you can set your intention to connect, and your motivation is going to be to follow through on your intention and not get caught up in judgment and how you’re doing it. It’s the intention that matters and it’s intention that will guide you and keep you going through all the years of your role in parenting. Actually, I still have the intention of connection to my kids, even though they are all married now and some of them have children of their own. My intention is to be appropriately connected to them forever, which means I will always be here to be a support to them on their own adult journey. My role has shifted in a huge way, but I’m always here as that home base for them, and most of it probably has been already laid down, and if I were to leave tomorrow, not be on this earth, they would have that home base. See how this is always going to look different according to your age and stage in life. 


Okay, let’s look at the plan. This is the fun part, and hopefully I can convince you that there is no right way to do this, as long as you do it some way, and I love to look at it like a menu, and I did this before when we talked about connection right, I gave you a menu. The bigger the menu you have to choose from, the more options you have. So, as we describe a menu, don’t think that you’re going to want to do everything on the menu like going to the cheesecake factory. I love that place, but it’s overwhelming. Their menu is like an encyclopedia. There is probably no way you could eat everything you couldn’t eat yourself. You couldn’t eat your way through that menu, even if you went there every day. And you don’t need to win the prize for most creative parent either. 


Small and simple things can actually make the biggest impact. So I put together a menu for you with so many ideas and if you’ll promise me that you will use this as a resource to help you get ideas and not as a measuring stick to judge and beat yourself up with, I will post it in the show notes and you can go get them. But you have to promise no beating up, no comparing, just a place to get ideas. Can you tell? I deal with this a lot with moms. When we start talking about this, I see the shoulder slump. I see them start to kind of go oh, I never thought, oh, that’s a good idea and all of a sudden I see them just deflate. This is not the goal. Okay, please, just a place to get ideas, and I laid this out in sections small, low cost connections, medium and higher cost connections. Higher cost meaning the amount of time, money and energy it might take to do them. So of course I hope you have lots of low cost things. You do a few medium cost things. I may be once in a while you gear up for a higher investment connection activity. So here are some more small connections with big impact. 


Make eye contact when your child talks with you. So let’s look at a few of these examples. We certainly don’t have time to go through everything, but let’s just throw out there a few of these. Here’s some small connections with big impact. Make eye contact when your child talks with you. This might mean you get the dinner done a little slower, right? Because if you have a child coming to tell you something and you’re cutting vegetables, you cannot look at the knife cutting the vegetables and your child at the same time. You may need to pause, but your child will feel the connection. Put down our phones. This is something I’m working on with my husband, with my adult children with anything that’s important to me. If I can learn to disconnect from my phone, my tablet, laptop, when someone we care about is talking to us, this goes a long way. 


Touch your child often. Put a hand on their arm. Brush back their hair if they’ll let you. Sometimes they don’t want this when they’re teenagers. But hold their hand, put an arm around them. 


Touch has a whole connection pathway to the brain that is so much deeper than we’re even having time to talk about. Touch is so powerful. Smile at them, call them a sweet name, compliment them. Just notice. You don’t even have to give them a compliment, just notice what they’re doing. You can ask them little things Want to go with me to get the mail, want to help me make the bed? And then maybe you do something fun while you do that 30 seconds, shake the sheets up so they can run under them before they fall. You can tell what would be too much for your child If this would rile them up too much. Maybe you don’t do that, but just a little playfulness goes a long way. Play is a child’s language. Touch is a child’s language. Pretend in imagination is a child’s language. Music, tactile things can be a child’s language, anything that involves the five senses creativity, imagination, curiosity. We get so caught up in practical adult things we can forget what it’s like to be a kid. And, by the way, can we just acknowledge how good this is for us to be lighthearted once in a while. I think it’s the best part of parenting. It’s remembering the wonder and the silliness, the lightheartedness of life. So this is good for us too. 


Playing, ring around the rosies, even looking at Pokemon cards, or playing house, or building a Lego project, or reading a short picture book or listening to a song off your teenager’s favorite artist’s new album. Sometimes I’d even trade off. I’d do these things, things that wouldn’t be high on my own list. I’d play cars for 10 minutes and then I’d kind of bargain to do something else, like I would invite them to cook with me, or maybe we’d draw or paint. I feel like I could draw or paint for hours, way longer than I could play cars, and maybe they couldn’t, maybe they would draw or paint for 10 minutes. 


I think connection isn’t all one sided. I mean it has to be a part of what speaks to your child, but you get to be part of that conversation too. You could play board games or card games and you could pick games that lasted as long as you felt you had time for. You know, my mom lived with us off and on during my kids growing up and she was the best at this, probably because, well, that was just who she was. She was so good at connection. But she wasn’t the mom in charge of the house, right. She had more time and that appreciation for the stage of life she was in. She just had more bandwidth to spend time and so she would wait for the kids when they came home, especially my younger girls. She would play cards with them after school at the kitchen table. She’d play Go Fish or this funny little game she played with them by, like using this plastic play placemat we had at the table that had the alphabet on it, and they would sing this little song while they kind of kept a rhythm and they had to think of a name or an item for every letter of the alphabet without missing a beat Like. I just heard my girls talking about that last week and laughing about how much fun that was. They have such fond memories of that. 


That was a form of connection that I couldn’t do in the same way every day. So I’m throwing out these ideas, and I wish there were this two-way call with each of you, because I know you have things you do that would be so helpful for us to hear. When we are in the thick of things, it can be hard to see what we’re already doing and it could be hard to feel creative, but I know there are things that are already working for you and those count. One of my biggest helps in this process was creating rituals, and this can be helpful for you too putting a few routines or traditions in place that help to set a structure so we don’t have to think about it so much. So here are a few of the rituals or routines that I used, but remember, you don’t have to do it my way. You can create and probably already have your own rituals for connection. 


So, starting at the beginning of the day, I tried to say good morning, how was your sleep? Even if they were out the door as teenagers before me sometimes, or after me, I would text them good morning, how was your sleep. If I could, I would touch them, hug them, give them a kiss. To each of my kids, I would try to ask them at the beginning of the week how I could help them that week and this is an interesting one, because you might think kids would take advantage of this, but I actually found that I could see the wheels turning in their mind as they sorted out what was reasonable and not reasonable to ask me for help, which was actually kind of a cool learning process. We also set an intention notice intention to have a family dinner together every night. Not a perfect record on this, but it was the standard ritual, it was our intention and often we lingered at the table, especially on weekends, and that’s where we would all be together and often tell stories or just laugh together. I tried to make eye contact and hug each child when they came home from school. 


These are so simple, right, you hardly even realize that there are connection deposits, but they add up and I want you to be thinking of some of the rituals that you have in place and you might not even think their routines or rituals. They might just be. Well, we just do this every day. Yeah, that’s a ritual, that’s a routine. So they’re our best friends. They can carry us along in our plan to connect and if you have one, that is going against connection for you. Like you have a ritual of doing something that is an obstacle to your connection. You can change that too, because that’s going to make it harder for you to have connection. Routine puts us on a path and we put our head down and we just follow. So that can service or it can get in our way. 


How about bedtime? Oh my gosh, can we just talk about bedtime? It could be the sweetest and the hardest time of day. So nighttime rituals are often really helpful, but also tricky, because it’s at the end of the day when kids most often want to delay separation from us and also the time when we are the most tired and out of energy. So I used to get so frustrated that by the end of the day I was out of energy when I felt like that’s when my kids needed me the most. So what helped me was a very short and doable bedtime routine that everyone kind of expected I love to sing. So since they were babies I had kind of a menu of songs, like a little jukebox that they could have me sing one song and maybe read one book before bed at night, and this was not always perfect, but we usually expected it was part of bedtime so, and that wasn’t 10 songs and 10 books, it was one song and one book and it was their time and I did it with each child. So, yes, I sang five songs. Sometimes we read the same book together, so we didn’t do separate books, but I tried to give each child their own song and that worked for me because singing was my thing. It might not be your thing. I have a friend who dances before bed with her kids, one who reads a chapter out of a book series, one who snuggles with them, one who sends them straight to bed with a quick kiss and connects at other times during the day. 


You can lead your children by noticing what works for you and what helps them feel connected. I love this because it can look the way that it needs to look for you. And here’s something else you can lead your children in connection by noticing the things that your children do that help you feel connected. And I love this one because it helps us deep in our own sense of understanding of our need for connection. And you can verbalize the things you feel are special, like when your child says something nice to you or compliments you or smiles at you, you can verbalize the feeling. You get. That felt really nice. Thank you for smiling at me and you can wink at them. 


You know winks are so awesome. It’s like a secret right, it’s a secret. I love you. That’s another memory I have of my dad. All these are flooding back to me Driving in the car, when I was sitting in the back seat and I was little, I could only see my dad’s eyes in the rear view mirror and he would often catch my eye, like at a stoplight, and he would wink at me and no one else saw it. 


I remember that. That wink said my dad knows me, he likes me, and I don’t think I ever told him that, but I still remember that. How do you find chances to connect? That’s in this mom’s question. I think just having an intention in your mind and heart, without the pressure to perform, just a little whisper of intention in your mind, can help you find these small moments to connect with your child. Sure, the long talks are great, the single kid dates, the trips away they’re awesome, but they aren’t what builds the foundation of your connection house. It’s these small, very doable pieces that over time, over days and years, they build up something so strong that you can count on it. 


My dad has been gone for decades and I still feel that connection. His little winks told me he believed in me and I was important and he loved me, and I’ve never forgotten that. It’s carried me through some of the hardest times of my life and we give this to our kids. It’s not their job to let us know it’s happening. In fact, you may never know, not until they’re older and they have maturity and wisdom and maybe you’re trying to do it for their kids, and then they’ll see. They’ll see what you’ve built for them. This is a gift. We give gifts not with a return expected. It only ends up being a gift we do receive as well. So hope and faith and trust in this process. It’s not supposed to be overwhelming or feel impossible. Little bits is all you need. This is a moving target. It’s gonna be changing all the time, and that’s a good thing, because wouldn’t it get boring to be stuck doing the same things all the time? And you can always ask your child what to do that really feels good to you, what things make you feel special and I have another great story about that. 


Maybe the last story and all these are about my husband. Like good for him, he’s done such a good job. His examples are coming up to me like big time right now. But my husband decided one year to coach my son’s baseball team and of course this is what he did many, many years. But this particular time he made a decision to coach and it was one of the bigger ticket items for connection right, because it takes a lot of time and it was a way he thought he could really invest and connect in our son’s life. 


And so one day after a very long Saturday and I think my son was about, I want to say he was like 13, 12 or 13, after a very long Saturday that started early with being at the field with the equipment and having a practice before the game and then the game and then getting home. It was like the whole morning and I remember my husband finally sitting down in the cool house and getting some lunch and my son coming to him at the table and saying, hey, dad want to go outside and play catch. And like we both kind of stopped and looked at and like my husband and I both kind of stopped and looked at each other like wow, more baseball, seriously. And I think I said I need daddy to spend all morning with you at baseball. And he said, yeah, I know, but I didn’t get to play catch with him today. And my husband and I kind of shifted right then Like we were not seeing it from his perspective. It just seems so obvious that he’d made this big investment to our boy. But all our boy really wanted was one-on-one time. But all our boy really wanted was one-on-one time with his dad in the backyard. And you know, my husband still coached throughout my kids growing up years. 


But we never forgot the power of that simple connection and we actually ended up asking our kids what would feel really good to you. Would you like me to coach this year or just help out a little bit and work on your batting more after school, one-on-one Like. It was interesting to see how the kids would answer and it was different each time. We learned a lot by asking them. You know your kids just want you in their lives. I really believe we can’t fail at this because if we want it, if we want that connection to even just a little bit, there are just so many ways to connect. 


So to our mom’s question what you’re doing is enough? Do not understand the power of even the small things. So to our mom’s questions what you’re doing is already working. Do not underestimate the power of even the smallest things you do and you can use your interests, your children’s interests, and be freed up from the shoulds and find things that might work for you in the moment that your family is at this point in this time. And let’s just change that perception of what connection is that? It’s something that works for you. It’s not an amount of time, it’s not an action that can be measured, it’s a feeling, and you can check in and make adjustments and make a plan to have this be doable in small and simple ways. And if you hold the intention of connection in your mind and heart, it will be there in front of you. You’ll find the things you can do to build that with your kids. 


So, in summary, I want you to connect with your child because it creates the strong relationship you need to effectively use the authority you have as a parent. Your container allows you to securely hold your kids so you can teach, you can set boundaries and hold them, you can reprimand, you can repair any injuries when you don’t show up the way you want and there is so much more room for imperfection. Because the relationship is secure. And that goes the other way too. Your kids can feel safe enough to mess up and come to you and tell you the truth, even when it’s hard. And that’s what we need right. This is a safe, connected relationship. That’s what having that vision is about. To see it as a developmental task. That’s good for them and good for you. 


Knowing that small things count and finding purpose in all those menial tasks that seem so repetitive. Knowing you can do things. And then you can do things. Just putting down your phone when they come home from school. Just putting down your phone when they come home from school or walk into a room. If you’re in the middle of something that you have to finish, just pause, make eye contact. I really want to hear about your day. I’ll finish this and be free in five minutes and then keep your promise. Give them a small connection to kind of be a placeholder and then follow through. Your kids will see their importance. I’m important for mom. I’m important enough for mom to stop right now and even just tell me that she will come back to me when she’s free and we’re actually teaching them how to do this with us later, right, and with the people they’ll love in their future. 


The more we kind of speak it out loud what we’re doing, the more they can learn that skill that we’re using with them, and they’ll be able to do it with their families. And then we just want to listen. We’ll do a whole episode on listening active listening, which is such a powerful form of connection. We could take a few minutes and really listen and just be with our kids, and this is so important, especially with our little ones and our preteens, to prepare for those teenage years when there’s sometimes some pulling away, as kids want to separate from us and we want them to know that they can talk without us teaching them all the time, just being with them and enjoying them without having to teach them or coach them. That’s another form of connection. 


So, as we’ve been talking about this in this podcast, we’re focusing on your wellness, your strength, you’re getting what you need, so you can do this, so you can gift this to your kids, and this connection ends up making the whole journey so much sweeter, doesn’t it? So, remember, I’ve included a menu of connection activities for parents and kids, separated out into big ticket items and small ones. Like we mentioned, it’s by no means exhaustive, just a little drop in the bucket, but it might spark some creativity. I’d love to hear what you all do to connect with your kids. Please email me or DM me on Instagram at LeighGermann, and we can grow this menu with all of your awesome ideas. So that’s it for today. I love these questions. Keep them coming in, keep connecting, take care of yourselves and I look forward to talking with you next week.

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