As we entered our daughter’s Transitional Kindergarten class we were greeted with a smile and someone who wanted to connect with us. Our daughter, although shy and nervous, was able to open up and felt wanted and excited. A few months later at a dance camp, we entered the dance room and couldn’t tell who the instructor was. We weren’t greeted or welcomed. Needless to say, as we waited for class to start, the shyness and nerves took over and our daughter didn’t want me to leave or to stay for class. We worked through it and she ended up loving class.
What was the difference between these two instructors?
One made a point to welcome us and show interest. The other didn’t.
Don’t we feel better when someone welcomes us with a smile or handshake and shows interest? This seems like a simple concept. A strong greeting sets up a successful interaction. But fellow parents, how often do you do this with your children?
Both of these instructors were great and our daughter ended up loving both classes. But one teacher had a special “trick.” She made a point to collect our daughter as she entered the room.
Gordon Neufield, PhD, and Gabor Mate, MD, who is well known for his work on childhood trauma and addiction, discuss the action of collecting and recollecting our kids when we first encounter them or when we are reencountering them. When we are away from our children, typically because of sleep, school, or work, but even including small separations like the 20 minutes of playing outside while you made dinner, we need to make a point to reconnect and collect them. The first thing a parent should do when reencountering their child is to greet them as a means to recollect them.
These greetings can vary in size. When picking our daughter up from school, a hug and holding hands to the car followed by the conversation about her day works well. In the morning, a big hug and a snuggle seem to be our favorite. When our son comes in to tell me a story while working on the computer, eye contact, a smile, and giving him my full attention are enough to show him I am here to listen.
One important point to remember is the ritualization. What can you do that can be a ritual? My greeting for our daughter after school is the same each day. Teachers who give high fives as students walk in have created a welcoming ritual for students.
These loving greetings make a lot of sense when our kids are young, but as they become more independent or grow into teenagers we may feel these greetings no longer have a place. This is not true. Please continue to pursue your teenager who seems to want nothing to do with you. Your relationship with him is the most important predictor of his success and the most important part of your parenting.
Parents, I know you are busy. I know you have to get out the door by 7:40 or you will not have time to get your kids to school and get yourself to work or an appointment. I know you need to make dinner and finish the laundry and still make it to baseball practice. I know you need to get back to work after picking your child up from the bus stop. Believe me, I get how busy you are and how many things you need to do.
But I encourage you to take that extra time, whether it be an extra 30 second hug (the amount of time needed for all the good love hormones to begin releasing), or an extra three-minute conversation, to connect with your children. Meet them when they wake up with a hug and a smile. Meet them when they get out of school with a hug and a conversation about their day. Tell them how happy you are to see them. Meet them when they get home from practice with connection over dinner. The moments may seem short, but they add up.
Here are some impactful ways to collect your child. What others can you think of?
· Eye contact
· Ask questions
· High fives
· Holding hands
· Give them time to adjust from one activity to another
· Give full attention
· “I’m so happy to see you!”