Two Ways to Improve your Connection with your child

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I often work with children and teens in my profession, and in doing so, along with having two children of my own, I have discovered two things that can help improve the connection with a child. I have found that owning up to your mistakes, and entering your child’s world are incredible ways to show genuine love and deepen connections.  At times I do a good job with this and see my connection with my girls improve, While other times I struggle and succumb to my weaknesses. I have found that when I turn to God for help I am capable of being who He wants me to be for my children, humble and selfless. I know He can do the same for you. 

Own up to your mistakes: If you have caused your child pain, either directly or indirectly, and you don’t own up to it, connecting will be very difficult to do. If someone else hurts your child and you ignore it, you are indirectly Causing him or her pain. Even if you do everything else right, your child wants to hear you take responsibility and apologize for pain your choices have caused them. This shows genuine love and care. It proves that you can set aside your own pride for the sake of your son or daughter. Honestly, to me this is critical! Not only does this show that you are willing to admit your fault and share regret for pain you’ve caused, it also teaches him or her a valuable life lesson that will help in their future relationships.

Avoid excuses like the plague. An excuse voids your apology and relinquishes responsibility to someone or something else. Your child wants to hear you share sorrow and regret for your wrongs, not an excuse for why you did what you did. When I lose my patience with my daughter and react poorly I tell her how sorry I am and that my reaction wasn’t okay. She always responds well and forgives me! What if I said, “I’m sorry I reacted poorly, but it was because you were acting up.” Does this apology mean anything? Not at all. (This works the same in marriage). I can sometimes be the queen of excuses so learning this has been a challenge for me, but with God’s help I am improving and connecting better with my family as a result. 

Think about your own life, are there things you wish your parents took responsibility for that they didn’t? How would you have felt and how different might your connection to them have been? Admitting your faults to your child doesn’t make you appear weak, it shows your child what humility and honesty looks like (James 5:16). PS: It’s never too late to do this by the way! No matter how much time has passed, doing this can make a world of difference for your child.

One last thought on this point. Don’t believe the lie that your child is resilient and can handle pain without recourse. Every child wants to be accepted and validated. All children are effected by pain and need to know you care. An amazing way to do this is by acknowledging hurts and taking responsibility. 

Enter their world: the world of a child is drastically different than that of an adult. Its easy to want our children to enter our world because that’s what we are more comfortable with. Showing our kids that what matters to them matters to us is a big way to deepen our connections with them. Maybe coloring, doing puzzles, pretending to be a prince or princess, having tea parties, watching super hero movies, doing crafts, going on roller coasters, playing ball in the backyard, or reading books about dinosaurs isn’t interesting to you, but doing these things because your child loves to do them will greatly improve your bond. This was challenging for me as a new Mom, but with dedication and God’s help we can overcome our weaknesses in order to be the parents God desires us to be and connect well with our children.

This point is especially important with teenagers. Maybe you would say that your teen isn’t interested in doing things with you or doesn’t talk to you. Have you hurt him or her in some way? Take responsibility for the hurt you have caused first. Maybe you have and your teen still acts uninterested. This is a normal part of being a teen, but don’t let it scare you away. Instead of asking just plan a surprise outing to your teens favorite place. I promise this will make a difference and will show genuine interest. Over time your connection will begin to deepen. 

When you connect on a deeper level with your child it’s easier to be aware of what’s going on in his or her life. Your child will feel safe, secure, and trusting, and will be willing to share thoughts and feelings with you. When they do, be careful to validate those feelings even if you might disagree. Entering your child’s world means taking them seriously. Instead of putting down their feelings try putting yourself in their shoes. This is another way to enter their world and improve your connection.

Thanks for reading!

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Four Ingredients for Improving your Marriage Connection

Marriage

Recently while learning about Attachment Theory I came across something referred to as PACE. It is basically a parenting technique for effectively nurturing your child’s secure attachment bond. PACE stands for Playfulness, Acceptance, Curiosity, and Empathy. The funny thing is, while I found this really helpful in raising my daughter, I also found it to be a helpful method in improving my connection with my spouse. I have found that implementing these four things in my marriage has really improved our connection.

Below i’ll go into more detail as to how and why these four ingredients have proven useful in deepening my connection with my hubby.

Playfulness: To me this one is huge! I absolutely love it when my husband is goofy and works hard to make me laugh, doing silly things he would never in a million years allow anybody but me and our two year old daughter to see. We can honestly have so much fun! Its nice to be serious at times, but I’ve found that being playful and having fun really improves our connection and friendship. We have recently purchased a super nintendo and are currently working on beating Donkey Kong (in extreme moderation, of course). This has brought us back to our childhood years and has been a blast! It might seem childish, but enjoying this activity together and laughing our heads off at my weird faces and body movements while playing (as if me moving around will help diddy make his impossible jump..) has been so much fun. Enjoying playful, not so grown up, activities can do wonders for your marriage! Stop being such an adult all the time and have some fun!

Activity: Think of a playful and fun activity you can do with your spouse and try it out this week. I don’t know, maybe its going to the park and swinging as high as you possibly can, seeing who can jump off the furthest in mid air! Get creative!

Acceptance: There are no two people who are exactly alike. This is true for me and my husband and its true for you and your spouse too. Accepting each other for who we are and not always trying to change each other has been, i’ll admit a challenge, but has ultimately strengthened our relationship and has helped us to see each other with a new appreciation. I am not talking about being accepting of unhealthy and harmful habits or behaviors, as these types of things need to be changed. I am talking about differences in personality that were placed there by God himself for a beautiful purpose. I am much more sensitive and understanding than my husband and much less organized. Sometimes my sensitivity can be a bit much for him to handle. God has used my sensitivity and understanding to enable me to counsel and support hurting people. My husband is so organized! He notices every single little thing, while I am oblivious to just about every small detail. I never put things back in the same place I got them and I never even notice. His organization makes him an incredible leader of our home and enables him to accomplish so much. Early on we struggled to accept these differences, and others like them. After time this has become much easier and has been a huge relief. Allow your spouse to be who God created him or her to be, rather than trying to make him or her become just like you. This lifts the heavy burden trying to change each other creates.

Activity: Make a list of all the traits in your spouse that have irritated you. Beside each trait  write down something positive about it and how it makes your spouse a better person.

Curiosity: I love it when my husband is interested in what I have going on, especially when I know its not really his thing. This shows me that he is curious about me and my interests, not just concerned with what he has going on. Even though I don’t really understand business, I love hearing my husband explain it to me and tell me about his ventures. While business may not be my thing, my husband is, so what he loves I love! I know how much it means to him when I ask him how his day went and genuinely listen! Curiosity is defined as a strong desire to know or learn something. Ask your spouse to teach you something new that he or she loves to do. I love it when my husband seems curious about the new theory I’m studying or book on emotional bonding I’m reading. Believe me! I know for a fact that this isn’t his thing, so having him intently listen to me  go on and on about it really means a lot to me!

Activity: Think of something your spouse loves to do and get curious about it. Ask him or her to teach you something new and truly engage.

Empathy: Empathy is defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. The difference between empathy and sympathy is that sympathy involves your own feelings and empathy involves the feelings of another. Early on in my marriage I was so insecure! Whenever I noticed my husband was bothered I immediately assumed it was something I did and I sought out to fix it, all so I could feel better about it. I wasn’t really concerned with how he was feeling, but rather with how it made me feel. This was definitely hurtful and caused more issues. When you are less focused on yourself you are better able to focus on the other person and what he or she is going through, feeling what he or she is feeling. Pay attention to your spouses facial expressions and body language. It can be easier than you think to notice something is off. When you notice something is bothering him ask what is going on and really focus on paying attention to what he  is feeling, trying to imagine how it must feel yourself. Learn how to listen and not just offer solutions. Say something like, “wow this must be so difficult for you, I’m so sorry you have to go through this.” Instead of, “well maybe if you tried (solution) it would get better.” Its not all about the negatives either. When your spouse is excited or encouraged experience this with him or her as well! Rejoicing and sorrowing together is a huge connection builder in a marriage.

Activity: Practice this week looking for cues that signal your spouses feelings. Try to experience and understand these feelings and let him or her know about it. Express how much you care and understand what he or she is experiencing.

 

Building an Emotional Bond With your Spouse

IMG_9801I’m sure a lot of men and women would read this title and run for the hills. In fact I used to be the woman who was shut down emotionally and closed off to others. It wasn’t until my husband came around and attempted to engage my emotional side (over and over again I might add) that something changed. His persistence, patience, and secure love is what finally helped me to open up and break down the walls that were blocking me from emotionality. I have so much thanks to offer my husband for the emotionally secure and in touch woman that I am today. Building this emotional bond with my husband was critical for our marriage to thrive and is critical for yours too.

Think about the scripture on love below, could any person accomplish this without a secure emotional bond with his or her spouse? I would argue that he or she could not. Read it with me. “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
‭‭I Corinthians‬ ‭13:4-7‬ ‭(NKJV)‬‬

Doing all of these things becomes possible when coupled with a secure emotional bond with your spouse. Think about the way you love God, you have a close emotional bond with Him because He is consistently faithful to you, He loves you unconditionally, He doesn’t give up on you when you fail, and He is always there to listen to and attend to your hurting or joyful heart. This is what building an emotional bond looks like, and is how my husband helped me go from avoidant and closed off to emotion to secure and open to sharing my deepest needs, fears, and dreams with him, knowing full well that he would be there to listen and care with a genuine heart. I’m telling you this to offer encouragement. If your spouse won’t open up to you emotionally and tends to shut down, through offering continuous support, patience, and understanding you can help to break down the walls of fear they’ve built and become emotionally open to you, as my husband did with me. Just don’t give up. Do you offer this to your spouse? If not, it’s likely that you are lacking an emotional bond.

So how exactly can you form or reform this bond with your spouse to strengthen your marriage and connection?

Be present with your spouse: something I see causing so much damage to marriages today is technology. How many shows are you watching? How many games are you playing? Are your hands attached to your smart phone? When your husband or wife needs you are you half-focused on a game, show, or app rather than giving him or her all of your attention? Not only that, how much time do you spend really talking to and getting to know each other? Ask yourself this question,given the choice, would you rather spend time alone, time with your friends or other family members, or time with your spouse? if the answer isn’t time with your spouse then this is a huge problem. This indicates that you likely don’t have the strong emotional bond necessary for enduring love.

Be there when your spouse needs you: not just physically but emotionally too. I Thessalonians 5:11 says “Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.” As a husband or a wife we are called to comfort and edify our spouse. This means being available to him or her when he or she needs comfort or edification. If you aren’t there for your spouse he or she won’t feel safe to go to you during these times of need. Does your spouse know you are there for him or her? If you aren’t sure then ask. This will open the door to honest communication that will start you on the path to developing a secure emotional bond. Knowing with confidence that your spouse will be there when you need him or her offers a true sense of security. I am not saying that your spouse won’t ever let you down, but when you have this secure emotional bond it is much easier to face when it does happen. The only person we can truly depend on no matter what is God, but don’t think that this means we should not be able to trust and depend on our spouse to be there when we need him or her, because we absolutely should!

Be willing to share your fears, hurts, and joys with your spouse: Building a strong emotional bond with your spouse not only requires that you are there when he or she needs you, but that you are willing to share your fears, hurts, and joys with him or her too. No marriage is one-sided. As our relationship with God requires effort on both sides, the same is true for our marriages. We feel close to God when we get to know Him through reading His word, prayer, and worship. But this isn’t enough to build a close relationship with Him. This comes when we let down our guard and share ourselves with Him. In a marriage the only way to form a true emotional bond is by being fully known by your spouse and fully knowing your spouse. Do you know your spouses deepest fears and hurts? How about their dreams and longings? Or what brings him or her the most joy? Romans 12:15 says “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” How can your spouse weep with you and rejoice with you if you aren’t sharing whats on your heart? Being dependent on your spouse is not a negative thing. God created us to depend on, not only Him, but on others for encouragement, support, and strength. If this were not the case He would not have looked at Adam and said “it is not good for man to be alone.” He has given each of us a beautiful gift in our spouse. when we start building an emotional bond the beauty begins to shine through the mire of let downs and disappointments, enabling us to build a secure emotional bond and lasting love.

Maybe you finished reading this and think, “I just don’t see how this will ever be possible with my spouse, he or she will never change.” If you are struggling to build an emotional bond, and its not for lack of trying, I would suggest seeing a competent counselor who can guide you through the process. After all, God’s Word has a lot to say about receiving godly wisdom and counsel from others. Just don’t give up. God can heal any hurt and reform or form a bond between a husband and wife, no matter how dark or ugly the circumstances.