The more I write, the more I realise that everything I’m writing about comes back to the power of connection. To noticing our children and acknowledging their experiences, before we make judgments about their behaviour. Because usually, the judgments disappear when we do this.

What does connection feel like?

Think of a time when you did something for someone, something small maybe and someone noticed.

How about a time when somebody totally got how you were feeling. You barely even had to explain, they just got it.

Have you spent time with someone where you felt totally free to be yourself? You could just get on and be you, because you knew they wouldn’t judge anything you did.

And then there’s that person who sees us when we’re sad and trying to hold it together. They ask us how we are and we burst into tears. Often, I know, we feel a bit annoyed that they have been kind and we have cried because, as a nation, we’re not that great at being sad. But something connects there, it touches us and makes us feel safe enough to be ourselves.

When these things have happened, how have you felt? Do you think you are more or less likely to do things that seem angry or aggressive? Do you feel defensive or do you feel relaxed?

Sometimes, our experiences like this feel mixed. If we’re not practised at feeling vulnerable or seen, it can be very scary when somebody is kind in the face of our anger, sadness or fear.

What is the effect of connection?

When people are kind to you, how do you feel? Are you more likely to do the things you want to do or less likely?

Last time you were at your best, how were you feeling? Scared, worried and overwhelmed? Or calm, confident and loved?

If you were about to do something you found difficult and I said to you, “I know you. I know this is hard and that you’re feeling scared right now. And I know you’ve got this. I have seen you do remarkable things. I know you can do this too.” How would you feel?

What is the effect of disconnection?

Quite often, people have the experience that they have had to be shouted at to get things done. Unless there was threat of punishment, they would be unproductive. (We’ll challenge the need to be productive all the time at a later date…)

So let’s think about this. Take the above situation, you’re about to do something you find difficult and I say to you “What is wrong with you? Why are you worrying about this? Nobody else worries about this. Look at them, they’re all just getting on with it. Come on, be better and do it. Otherwise everyone will think you’re stupid and weak.” How does that one feel? For a lot of people, it may well feel more familiar than the first one. Does it feel better or worse?

Connecting with ourselves

How often do you get the chance to listen to yourself? And not just listen but to act upon what you hear?

Our basic needs are the easiest place to start with this. How often are you hungry but you don’t eat? Tired but you put off sleep? Needing comfort but unsure where to turn to ask for it?

What gets in your way? What thoughts come up when you think about eating if you’re hungry? Sleeping if you’re tired? Seeking comfort when you need love? What feelings arise?

How do you think your life might be different if you felt able to do those things?

If you were able to listen to yourself and honour your needs, what else do you think you could do? Because, believe me, I know that doing that is no mean feat.

Connecting with your children

Which areas do you find it easy to connect with your children? What does that connection feel like?

When is it harder to connect with them? What do you think it is about your experience that makes it harder? Have you ever experienced connection in that area? What was the messaging you got around this particular issue?

Take a look at the post ‘connecting with your children when things are tough‘ for more concrete examples of how we can do things differently.

Connection, even when we’ve done something ‘wrong’

Has anyone ever been kind to you about something you find really cringe-worthy? Something you wish you hadn’t done?

Has anyone ever thought about you as a whole person, the situation you were in, your experiences and said to you something like “do you know what, I think it makes sense that you did that. Think about all of these things that led you to that point. I don’t think you did it because you were a bad person. I think you did it because you were trying to get a key psychological need met.”

Can you imagine if they did do that? How would it feel? Would you believe them?

How do you think you could do this for your children?

What can you do right now to connect with yourself? What is your body telling you? What is your heart asking for?

When you next connect with your child, can you notice the effect it has on them? How does their body language change? How do they respond to you?

If connection still seems a bit of a mystery to you, I imagine you have not had enough of it in your life. The bread and butter of good therapy is connection, maybe it’s time to invite that into your life. The more connection you experience, the more you can connect.