Connection is just not a good thing. Connection is vital for kids, especially for kids from hard places. As Robyn Gobbel (2021) says, “Connection is a biological imperative.” Connection is the means by which kids can begin to securely attach (Gobbel, 2021). It is the means by which kids receive co-regulation and begin to learn to internally regulate themselves. While connection can result in behavior changes, that is not the point of being intentional with it. The purpose of connection is to create the best environment for a child to learn, heal, and grow.
So how do caregivers and parents foster connection? Especially for parents of kids who may reject connection because hard things happened to them in connection (Gobbel, 2020)? Through repetitive, regular, relational activities. These activities remind the child that the parent or caregiver is stable, that they are present, and that they care. Over time, connecting activities help the child will realize that the caregiver is who he or she says they are, providing a safe environment in which the child may begin to feel safe enough to tip-toe into a more attached relationship.
Connecting with kids can prove challenging. Time is limited. Busyness can cause creativity to wane. Caregivers and parents may feel fear related to how their child will react and not know what to do (Post, 2018). Enter the power of family rituals, things done in the same way, at the same time, on a repetitive basis (Ritual, n.d.). Family rituals help form connections as well as establishing cultural identity and values (Lisitsa, 2013). Rituals can be done daily, weekly, monthly, or seasonally. Basically, rituals are an MVP when it comes to connecting.
Daily rituals might include:
- Drawing a feeling face to represent the day
- Verbally discussing highs and lows:
- Rose and thorn
- Best of/worst of/grateful for/looking forward to (Bron, n.d.)
- Singing a song together
- Talking about something that made each person feel loved that day
- Practicing a version of a loving kindness meditation by speaking positive thoughts to one another (Cullins, 2020)
Examples of weekly rituals might look like:
- Playing a game of Chutes and Ladders to talk about good things and bad things from the week
- Sharing something the child felt they did well, something the caregiver/parent did well, and something each person wants to do better going forward
- Discussing a time each person feel safe during the week
- Completing the sentence: My week was most like the book (or movie) ____________.
- Selecting and listening to a song that describes the week
Seasonal rituals might include:
- Attending local sports games
- Cooking the child’s favorite meal for the child’s birthday
- Special clothes shopping times before school
- Making gratitude lists during the month of November, and/or for Thanksgiving
- Putting together an Advent calendar for December holidays
The sky is really the limit for rituals. They just need to be done regularly, rhythmically, and relationally. Caregivers and parents initiate and child can follow. Rituals themselves are not magic, but the connections they help build can be miraculous.
Bron. (n.d.) 10 everyday rituals that mean a lot to kids. Childhood 101. https://childhood101.com/tiny-moments-10-everyday-rituals-that-mean-a-lot-to-kids/
Cullins, A. (2020, December). 41 family rituals that teach responsibility, kindness, and compassion. Big Life Journal. https://biglifejournal.com/blogs/blog/family-rituals-teaching-responsibility-positivity-kindness-compassion
Gobbel, R. (2020, September 3). We are always searching…and yearning…for connection. RobynGobbel.com. https://robyngobbel.com/alwaysyearningforconnection/
Gobbel, R. (2021, January 12). Connection can’t not work. RobynGobbel.com. https://robyngobbel.com/connection/.
Lisitsa, E. (2013, January 31). Create shared meaning: Rituals for the family. The Gottman Institute. https://www.gottman.com/blog/create-shared-meaning-rituals-for-the-family/
Post, B. (2018, April 15). Love is letting go of fear. Post Institute. https://postinstitute.com/love-letting-go-fear/
Ritual. (n.d.) Merriam Webster. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ritual