My son’s behavior went from fairly normal, to downright concerning and disruptive this past fall.
My husband and I were frustrated and confused about what he might need.
It felt like each morning we woke up to fight a battle of getting ready, then after school, what used to be a peaceful time was punctuated with harsh voices and misunderstanding.
Thankfully, one small change made all the difference.
It just took a few small habit changes.
We wondered if our son needed a drastic change like a new school or counseling, but after a long conversation and some (uncomfortable) self-reflection, we decided to start with something simple.
We looked at where we could add back in more connection to our family life.
The fall had been extremely busy and between a large class size at school and two working parents with big projects taking their toll on our time, we realized my son was spending most days having far less connection than usual to us and other caring adults.
We had gradually let family dinners slip away on most nights, and as my son’s temper grew, we started “just getting through” the morning and afternoon instead of making any time to reconnect.
We decided then that our first step would be to work on getting back to our regular dinners together.
Along with that I went back to a long time habit of having a conversation starter ready for chatting when we were in the car, and finally, my husband and I committed to looking for those little often overlooked chances that arise during family life (maybe while doing dishes or before bed) to chat with just him.
These few, fairly small, adjustments brought about big change.
The black cloud that had been floating around our family started to lift. I realized that once again connection had been the answer.
Often when I feel worried and unsure what to do, this is the case. Even if connection doesn’t fix everything, it at least gives me a stronger sense of the next steps I need to take.
Sometimes it feels too simple, but when our family life is feeling ‘off’ the first place to look is at connections with one another.
Maybe it sounds like a little reconnection would benefit your family too?
The good news is it doesn’t have to be complicated.
As I state in my book Bounceback Parenting: A Field Guide for Creating Connection Not Perfection, it’s normal for connection to ebb and flow in families, and when you realize your connection is at a low, you can shift your habits to reconnection. This is because connection happens more in your everyday habits than in big events.
Connection is more of a practice.
Connection is a part of everyday life through the way you interact during mundane tasks like making lunches, reviewing homework together, or waiting at the dentist.
As my brother says, “Ninety percent of relationship is in showing up and just doing life together.”
When you stop looking at connection as a special event and instead think of it as a practice, you see that you have countless practice opportunities.
You Can Find Connection:
In the way you greet the people you love and the way you say goodbye.
In having curiosity, listening openly, and seeing your child as a person who can contribute to the conversation.
In pausing to do something at your child’s pace, even when it doesn’t feel convenient.
In the moment you take a deep breath and give a true apology, letting your child see you are vulnerable.
And any time you laugh together.
The practice of connection may include something big, like a birthday party or a graduation celebration, but it is practiced more frequently in day-to-day interactions when we notice the moment just as it is, and the people who are with us—whole and loved, just as they are.
Connection isn’t about getting all these things right.
The truth is, building connection and trust into our family lives will look different for each of us.
It’s not about neglecting your own needs or doing only what your kids want. It’s about finding the ways to
connect that work in your family and transforming your days by trying these ways to connect over and over again.
And when you can reinvigorate the connection in your family, everything else gets easier.
Alissa Marquess is a mom to three, the founder of Bounceback Parenting and the author of Bounceback Parenting: A Field Guide for Creating Connection, Not Perfection. She helps parents build loving, resilient relationships with their kids without the guilt. Online and in popular coaching sessions, she’s been inspiring millions of parents around the world since 2010.