Today I want to give you a few methods for improving connection and attachment within your family. There are lots of them out there and this is just a sprinkling. And…to be perfectly honest…these are great to use with almost anyone, not just kids from hard places, so feel free to use anywhere and as often as needed. All kids need bonding, and attachment strengthening activities will never be time wasted.
Slippery Slope Slippery slope is usually done with younger children. In this activity, you put lotion on a child and then you pretend that their leg, arm, feet are slippery slippery slopes.
Scavenger Hunt A scavenger hunt with kids is always lots of fun. There are many you can find online (and this way you can adjust your search to a specific topic or theme or age-level). Regardless of what it involves, a scavenger hunt gives everyone in the family an opportunity to look for things together and work toward a common goal. Just as an example of one my family does every year after Thanksgiving is a Christmas Lights Scavenger Hunt, in which we drive around and search for a whole long list of different kinds of Christmas lights. We actually made up our own list of things to search for, which is yet another activity the family can do together ahead of time.
Shared Painting/Drawing/Coloring This activity depends on the child, because some children get upset and feel as though others in the family are ruining their project. Point being: prior to embarking on this activity, discuss it with the child and determine if it would work with his temperament. You may already know this one is off the table in your house, or you may not really be sure until you try it. But just a tip: if it does “go South” so to speak, be prepared to abandon it and have another project waiting in the wings if at all possible.
But if you DO think a shared art project would work, here’s kind of the general idea: whatever the project is (painting, coloring or drawing), set up a timer for 1 min, 30 seconds, or whatever the attention span is for the age group. Have each person begin a picture. Once the timer goes off, move the pictures to the left; at this point, that person contributes to that picture in front of them, until the timer goes off. Keep the pictures moving until everyone has drawn/painted, etc. on each picture and the owners get their pictures back.
Five Quick Questions This is a fun activity to do at dinner or in the car, or cut out copies of the questions and put into a jar to play like a game. Here are a few to get you started, but you can always make up your own as well:
Questions to ask kids about themselves:
- What are you excited about right now?
- What was your first thought when you woke up today?
- What do you want to accomplish by your next birthday?
- If you could be famous for one thing, what would it be?
- What’s the best thing about your life?
Questions to ask kids about their family and friends:
- What’s your favorite thing to do as a family?
- What’s something nice someone said to you lately?
- Who understands you the best?
- Who made you smile today?
- What’s your favorite thing to do with your friends?
Questions to ask kids about the world:
- Twenty years from now, where do you think you’ll live?
- What’s the biggest problem in our world?
- If you could give everybody in the world one piece of advice, what would you say?
- If you could create one law that everybody on Earth had to follow, what would it be?
- If you could learn any language, what would you learn?
The “Yes” Jar This activity requires some prep work on the part of the parent, but the benefits can definitely outweigh the work. To begin, here’s what you need (feel free to omit anything from the list that you aren’t willing to let your child have every time he asks):
- Large open mouth jar or container
- Small fidgets and stress balls
- Temporary tattoos
- Healthy snacks like granola bars, nuts, fruit leather, or beef jerky
- Fun treats like cookies, suckers, or gum
- Coupons for connecting activities such as playing a game with mom/dad, a back rub, etc.
- Popsicle sticks with the names of fridge items such as cheese sticks, fruit, or veggie
- Whatever else you are willing to say yes to ANYTIME your child asks
Once you fill your jar, tell your child about it and be willing to say yes anytime he asks. The point of this activity is that by hearing more “yeses”, children from hard places will learn to trust the adults they are with; I know it seems backwards, but actually by saying yes more often, we help the child accept our no more easily.
The Yes Jar does, sometimes, need to have parameters. For instance, the jar might be filled each evening when the child goes to bed and once it is empty the next day, then it’s empty for the rest of that day. Or maybe he can’t ask for anything after dinner, or before dinner or whatever you decide to set as your rules……but try not to set too many boundaries because then it becomes yet another battleground in your home. The rules are fine, so long as you say yes, any other time the child asks.
FYI be prepared at the beginning to spend a little more money on this at first because the child will ask for something from the jar OFTEN. He wants to see if you will really say yes, EVERY time, but as he begins to trust that you will really say “yes”, you will see the asking slow down.
Just Playing This seems so simple but just playing with your kids. Even 5 minutes a day can work to build a healthy connection with a child. Playing a game, or just playing what he wants to play. Child directed play is great too; it allows for insight into how a child thinks, builds trust and helps to exhibit shared power by allowing the child to “direct the ship”.
So, as I said…this is not a complete or thorough list by any means…simply a list to get you thinking about the ways you connect with your child and how you can use those moments together to bring healing and attachment. And I want to give a huge “Thank You!” To Jamila Nwokorie at Children’s Bureau for all her advice and insight to put together this post.