Where do you start? I hear this a lot from parents and I get it.
When you’re struggling and feeling disconnected from your child or just don’t know what to do, where you start with making change can feel like a big thing. It can feel like the shifts are just too huge to make sometimes.
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Whether you are new to this approach or are just looking to refocus, I want to take you through my recommended best places to start with Connective Parenting NVR.
Every family is in a different situation. Everyone will start in different places. Being honest with yourself about how you are feeling right now is where you begin.
(If you need help figuring out where to begin, you can jump in to my free Facebook group and get peer support from others who understand where you are right now, and I’m in there too!).
The Connective Parenting NVR approach is about us as adults looking after children, thinking about how we react and interact with them. We need to start with us.
Start with You.
Is your tank empty? Are you running on fumes and struggling to get through the day? If so, you need to begin with you.
When you are running on empty, it’s really hard to change anything else in terms of reactions in the moment and connections – you may not have the energy to do it.
The first thing you need to look at is topping up your own tank, so you have the energy and capacity to start making changes! I often suggest two minutes of deep breathing each day can really begin to start topping up your tank and help you feel better. It sounds simple, but is a great exercise you can even do with your children too – sharing it with them can help them to regulate, relax and calm their own bodies too. It’s a win-win.
I try to do something (note the bold on the word try!) that regulates and relaxes me every day. This might be going for a walk, reading a book, taking a longer-than-usual shower, eating sensibly… whatever it is, it’s about doing the things that work for you and fitting them in without those feelings of guilt.
When you’re stressed, or tired, or not feeling well, that filters out into the rest of the family. When we as adults are calmer and in a better place, that has a big impact on the children in our lives, as we’re no longer sending out stress signals. When you are running on fumes, it’s so hard to change anything.
Raising our presence.
Children in our care need us to be there for them. They need us to see them, to hear them, to acknowledge them. When we are feeling low or when we are exhausted by their behaviours, it can become quite easy and natural to back away from our child.
The problem with that is that their behaviours are more likely to escalate because they’re feeling a sense of disconnection which will then escalate their behaviour.
Raising our presence is something that we can often do quite easily. Even if we’re absolutely exhausted, there are ways we can raise our presence with our children that don’t take too much emotional or physical energy.
We can be honest about our emotions with them. This helps them to understand that our emotions are OK and we are teaching them how to deal with emotions in a way that doesn’t result in challenging behaviour. Being honest with them about our feelings really raises our presence and is also great for our self care as well.
Acknowledge THEIR emotions. “I can see that you’re frustrated at the moment, is there anything I can do to help?” “I can see that you’re angry, is there anything I can do?” “I can see you’re happy and smiling”… recognising their emotions, showing them that you can see how they’re feeling and empathising with them is a brilliant way of raising your presence.
Hear what they’re saying. We all, as humans, want to be heard. So often we don’t always hear what a child is saying, particularly if it’s something we don’t want to hear. Letting them know that we are hearing what they say by repeating back to them in an empathetic way, shows them that we are listening to what they’re saying, even if we don’t like it. You don’t have to agree with them to hear them. That’s hugely empowering. As they grow up, they will learn that you hear people and you listen to them, even if you disagree with them – what a powerful skill to learn.
Show interest in the things they enjoy. Spend some time with them doing something they love. Let them choose what it is you do or go and join them where they are, whether that’s playing Lego on the livingroom floor, or spending ten minutes watching them play their favourite computer game. Those ten minutes of your interest in what they’re doing is so powerful. Meet them where they are and connect with them. Go a step further by asking them questions about the things they enjoy. We often underestimate the power of showing someone that we are interested in what they’re doing.
De-escalating is a really hard thing to do if your tank is empty, it’s so difficult to stay calm in a situation which is stressful and escalating. It may not be the best place to start if you need to re-fuel yourself first. Part of NVR is the deferred conversation which might be a good place to start in terms of de-escalating, and you can find out more about de-escalating here and the deferred conversation here.
These things will help you build that stronger connection with your children and a more open relationship. Where you start depends on where you are right now. Be honest with yourself and top up your tank first if you’re running on fumes. Wherever you are, keep making sure you’re focusing on understanding yourself too – that for me is a critical part of this approach and that’s where we start to see changes.