August — the hot, carefree summer lingers but for a hint of autumn’s longer nights and increasing responsibilities. The kids are restless and fidgety, excited at the prospect of reuniting with friends, and nervously anticipating the challenges of the coming school year.
Following are ways you can mindfully maintain a deep connection with your child every day, despite the ongoing commitments of work and school. These are lifelong skills that, when practiced on regularly, will help every child succeed and thrive.
The Gift of Attention, and Meaningful Conversations
Get to know children by planning time with them on a regular basis. Schedules get filled with routine tasks and unexpected events that often do not give us enough time to get to know our children. Take time to check in about their world, talk about issues that matters to them, and share stories relevant to what they’re experiencing. Allow space to share ideas, ask openended questions, celebrate moments small and big, give them opportunities to contribute to decisions. All these reinforce the message that they matter, and are truly seen for how unique and beautiful they are to you and others around them.
Don’t Make Assumptions
Part of having meaningful exchanges is deep listening, which requires compassion and openness. Do not punish your child for having an opposing opinion or wanting to explore new ideas. Validate who they are and the choices they make about others and the world around them. They need your guidance, presence, and wisdom, not your judgment.
Walk the Talk
Children are not mind readers — let them know how you feel. Model the behaviors you expect and want to cultivate. For younger kids, go through the process of what a specific behavior feels, sounds and looks like to give them the cognitive tools to practice new skills. Remember, children appreciate when we notice that they’re learning, and an unsolicited compliment bestows a long lasting impression.
Self-Regulation, Decision Making and Problem Solving
Conflict, stress and worry are part of every child’s life, to varying degrees. Understanding the process and steps to navigate through challenges in positive and effective ways is an essential life skill. Review breathing, reflection, and mindfulness exercises to teach kids (and yourself!) how to rise above reacting from the fight or flight perspective.
Take time with your children each day to set intentions, or sit quietly in meditation, as it is a proven way to improve physical and emotional wellbeing. Make it simple-the idea is for this to become a daily practice. Studies show that regularly expressing gratitude, in particular, not only increases our own sense of happiness, but also expands our capacities for empathy and compassion. Children will choose to manifest these characteristics, not because they are told to do so, but because it becomes part of who they are.
The Power of Connectedness
It is essential to help children become aware of the world around them. Familiarizing them with other cultures, traditions, and perspectives will inspire more compassion and understanding. Fostering a deeper sense of interconnection with others, in a hyperconnected world, will engender relationships and behaviors that are more collaborative, creative, and beneficial.