Sometimes as parents we do not understand our children. This is especially true for children from “hard places” as they have experienced horrific things that have deeply affected them. This can make connecting with our children very difficult. As others from the Connected Community @ MCH have said, allowing kids to make choices, giving them redos, teaching them about respect, and how to regulate their emotions will help our children to have an increase in felt safety. Children today like a variety of activities and have access to a lot of different material which as parents, we do not always understand.
The first pillar of TBRI® is to connect with our kids, meet them where they are at. When you are unfamiliar with their interests it can make it difficult to connect. A way for caregivers to connect with their children is using activities based upon the principles of Theraplay. One activity from Theraplay that will allow you to connect with your child is putting lotion on their hands, feet, arms, and legs if they will allow it. This could feel awkward at first for either you or the child but allowing the child 5 minutes of uninterrupted time just the two of you will make a difference. They would be able to talk about their interests and know that they have your full attention. There would also be an increase in eye contact since you would be at close range which also allows for more connection. Children love to be able to share their interests with others. Ask them questions about what they are interested in. If they like Minecraft, play Minecraft with them or find a Minecraft parody song and share it with them. If your child really likes dinosaurs, share information that you know about dinosaurs with them. Children want to know that what they like matters to you and that you respect them and are willing to join them in their interests and not just share your own interests.
Try to spend a minimum of 5 minutes per day doing an activity of the child’s choosing. The caregiver is not trying to drive the play or take over but allows the child to direct the play time. These activities should not be directed towards video games, but if you have an older child who just loves video games, sit side by side, so that shoulders are touching and play the same game. This allows for building healthy touch and meeting the child where they are at.
Written by Stacey Merrill, LCPCc, Turner Family Counseling Center Clinician at The Maine Children’s Home for The Connected Community @MCH.