Making Time for Connection: How & Why It's Important in Early Childhood
We can’t state this enough:
Knowing your child makes a huge impact on their ability to thrive.
We are not suggesting that you don’t already know your child. Of course you know your child – you know their likes, dislikes, sense of humor and quirks. You know what makes them nervous and what special treat makes them light up.
Honestly, no one knows them like you do.
But the reality is, as your child grows, whole new worlds open to them. As parents, sometimes we miss seeing our little ones as thinkers, doers and learners.
In the classroom, teachers have a unique lens of who children are. We see them away from siblings, family roles and routines. The individual child comes to the classroom. Without fail, every year, we describe a preschool student to their parents and they are surprised. He speaks up in the group? She builds with the blocks? He’s a leader in play?
How do you get to know your child as a learner at HOME?
It takes some effort but truly, it doesn’t take a lot of time. You can spend just a few moments on a shared experience to connect and learn about them as an individual. The key here, and what is different than say chatting in the car or watching a movie together, is that you will give them your undivided attention.
Why is giving your undivided attention so necessary? We are all pulled in so many directions. From our home becoming our work space, to our dining room tables becoming a classroom, we have demands on us like never before. It’s a major juggling act at any given time. There are always emails to read, dishes to wash, laundry to fold, meetings to attend, counters to clear and lists to write. All of this tugging at our attention is how we miss the connection that makes all the difference.
So, here’s the challenge -
Let the dishes sit, put your phone away, close the door on the messy room and just be with your child. For five or ten minutes. Tell them you are there with them 100% for this time. Their reaction to this alone will help you get to know them.
It can be as simple as sitting together for a snack, starting a collection together, doing a craft, listening to a favorite song…the benefits of these shared experiences will come back ten-fold because kids who feel seen and known feel safe, secure, comfortable and more confident.
This can be a humbling experience as a parent. For me, it was my middle child’s reaction to this that got me. At one time, when I really gave her my attention fully, she could hardly tolerate it. She was uncomfortable. She was uneasy. I felt rejected and puzzled. Why did she not want to hang out with me? Here was my ‘a-ha’ moment. As my middle child, she really had never had it. There was always something else tugging at me and she had become accustomed to that. With practice and consistency, we came to love these times together. I learned more about who she was and what made her tick.
It doesn’t take fancy toys or elaborate set-ups to connect with your young child. Start small and put your observation skills to work.
What is your child doing when they seem truly engaged?
This will give you some insight on who they are as a learner – do they like to build, get their hands dirty, look at books, collect and organize, beg for water play…beginning to recognize who they are in these moments will help you make decisions on activities, toys, materials and ways to connect.
Here’s the bottom-line - we all do what we can to provide the basics for our children -- food, a home, clothing, stability, enriching activities - but even more important is to be present for them, to see them and to value who they are and where they are going.
That’s all there is to it. Find ways to connect. Be present. Know your child as an individual. Celebrate & support who they are.
Amy Mockbee & Emily Boucher
Work & Play ECC