Are you having trouble Connecting with your Kids?
That's what we're talking about this week!
Some of us are naturals at this. Maybe we had parents that did a good job or maybe we simply have a more playful personality.
But even if this isn’t your strong suit - don’t give up!! I have some insights, ideas and even tools to help you and your kids connect better.
If we haven’t met, I’m Sue Patterson and this is the Unschooling Mom2Mom podcast.
These are quick weekly pep talks to help you see that unschooling works. My own 3 unschooled kids are grown now - but I had NO IDEA what we were doing when we first started out.
That may feel familiar to you right now.
But I made some shifts, learned more, connected with Unschoolers who knew what they were talking about… and my own confidence grew.
I went from a typical mom in the suburbs sending kids off to school - to me now, an unschooling advocate who wants you to see that life can be so much better if you stop duplicating school!
Relationships Matter Most
The first thing to remember is that the relationship between you and your children is more important than almost anything else.
It’s certainly more important than when they learn their times tables or whether they know what a prepositional phrase is or when the Battle of Hastings was.
We’ve all discovered that so many of those little facts that determined whether we were considered a smart kid - or not… turns out it’s not that important at all. All of those can be found online through Google Or YouTube - so it’s no great skill to be able to rattle off random facts.
Now, if they are relative to your interests or career - then sure! But think of how many little facts were left on the proverbial cutting room floor!
And all of that is time you could have been actually diving deeper into your own hobbies and interests. Which would lead to a full rich life… like we do with unschooling!
I want to talk to you this week about that parent-kid connection: How to do it and why it matters.
Let’s start with the Why:
We brought these kiddos into the world - why aren’t we enjoying this more? We all deserve to live a life we enjoy right?
- Don’t let that archaic Puritan Work ethic talk you out of the joy that you could have.
- Don’t let that Industrial era focus prioritize working harder and seeing enjoyment as a distraction from your productivity numbers. You are more than a Good Factory worker!
- Don't let that worry about fitting in or pleasing everyone else dictate your choices now that you're an adult!
(not in the podcast, but I just thought of it!)
Research shows when kids live a life feeling loved and accepted, they grow in a healthier way. We know that coercion and pressure increases our anxiety and decreases our ability to learn new concepts or retain much. We’ve all seen it - maybe even today: how well does a kid who’s melting down - or even just distracted by their own thoughts - how well do they listen in the moment? They can’t. Their brain is otherwise engaged.
So envision the opposite: A relaxed loving environment, with parents and kids listening to each other and responding as needed.
Ok, on to some practical ideas about HOW to connect better…
Remember that listening I mentioned we should all be doing more of?
Listening creates more of a partnership. It allows the child to feel heard - because you DO hear them. You ARE listening to them. There’s less to resist.
That might be my first tip for HOW to connect more.
Stop talking over them and listen.
Sometimes that doesn’t take nearly as long as the escalation that happens when you try to plow through. And then the fallout that inevitably comes. That’s clearly not working well, so why not experiment with a different way. Try listening a little more this week and see if it makes a difference.
Not only is this going to help the relationship between you and your child in the moment, it creates new patterns of relating to each other. It models how they can relate with others in the world.
Create New Conversational Patterns
Sometimes we have created some patterns that we need to break free from. Or maybe we need a little help with HOW to connect - as in, what do we talk about? Only Minecraft? Or My little pony? Yes, engage in those conversations that THEY want to share with you. But you can insert some topics into the conversations too.
Sometimes I’d say that to people and they’d give me a blank look, or ask, “like what?” Or say,
“My kid never wants to talk about anything I bring up.”
Sometimes that means we need to think about those conversations:
Do they often end with you saying something they view as critical?
Do they lead toward some dissatisfaction you have with how they are now and some oh-so-helpful instruction on what they could change to be better?
Sometimes our worries and fears creep into our conversations- not matter how innocently they started out! So that could be part of the problem.
Another way is to level the playing field. What if you had a tool to help you set the stage where they could ask YOU things too? Maybe you could be a little vulnerable and show them that that’s ok too.
I created some Conversation Cards for my membership group to use and they’re available for you to - over in my shop at the website. These cards allow everyone to open up a little more and give you some insight into what your child might be thinking.
Sometimes people ask what ages these are for - but I’ve heard from families with 6 year olds and families with teens all enjoying them! They’re answers will be at different depths, and with 100 to choose from, you can always skip which cards you use. They cover 6 different topics like
- Personal growth,
- Helping them connect more with family members,
- Funny conversations to have,
- Conversations about the community or what they’re seeing,
- Cards to help them share what’s worrying them.
Some families have each person pull a card at dinner time. Others use them in the car or during a lull in the afternoon. Whenever works!
One of the cool things is that YOU aren’t feeling disappointed if they roll their eyes at a topic on the card - you can always agree with them saying,
“Yeah! What a weird question to ask!”
But then dive in yourself - and you’ve alienated ME and not you!
You’ve demonstrated that you’re on THEIR team with all this!
I just want you to know these are available as an option if connecting through conversations is a bit of a struggle.
Say "Yes" More - Why not?
One more tip on my How to Connect list, is to slow down your responses to all their requests. Sometimes we are rushed and we can barely think straight - let alone add more to our plates.
Instead of dismissing their request, think “why not?”
Why do I want to say “no?”
What part of their request could I say "Yes" to?
This is part of the reset.
Again, helping them see you as on their side- not a hurdle they have to get past.
So there’s a little bit about why and how to prioritize connecting with your kid. I created a Free PDF for you with 20 easy ways busy parents can connect. That will be linked in the show notes and at the UnschoolingMom2mom blog post. Each of these podcasts are over there at the blog with additional help you can tap into as needed.
Spend more time figuring out how to connect with your kids - maybe less time reading about cool curriculum or scrolling social media. This connection is a key component to making unschooling work - but it’s also helpful to anyone parenting kids, no matter what educational approach your taking. Try it - and let me know if it makes some changes in your world. Little things like this can make a huge difference. It has quite a ripple effect.
So, enjoy your kids, happy unschooling, and we will talk again next week!!