by Alane Atchley, M.S., LMFT, LCDC
“How much time each day do you connect with your kids?” This is a question I ask all the parents I work with in family therapy. Most parents understand this as any interaction between them and their child. I usually have to clarify the word “connect.” When I say connect, I mean an intentional, set apart time to talk or play with your children throughout the day.
After that clarification, I often hear that it’s not as nearly as consistent as they would like that time to be. According to whitehouse.gov, more than 6 out of 10 families in the United States with children have two working parents, and 57% of working people responded that work interferes with their quality of family life. On top of working, parents are expected to take their children to Brownies, tumbling, soccer, church….. I could go on for days! At the end of the day, this leaves families feeling exhausted and disconnected.The decrease of time and increase in responsibilities has led to families being more disconnected than ever.
This lack of connection leads to heightened anxiety and withdrawal in children leading to struggles with the academic and social aspects of school. In my years as a family therapist, family disconnection is a common, problematic theme. To get families connecting more within the home, I have them try out the 10-20-10 challenge. This means at least one parent and child connection for 10 minutes in the morning, 20 minutes in the afternoon/ evening, and 10 minutes at night. This is quality time spent together interacting and being present with one another. No school. No screens. No agenda. To some this seems too much or too little, but I encourage you to try it out and integrate it slowly into your family routine. Here are some easy, playful ways to connect with your kids during your 10-20-10 challenge:
Cooking together. Cooking or preparing an afternoon snack together can be a fun and connecting time for parent and child. Remember that the activity is about connection, NOT outcome!
Sensory play. Explore the way things around the house or the yard sound, feel and look. When y’all are exploring together you are connecting as well. This is not just positive for your connection but your child’s sensory system as well.
Playing a simple game of “I spy.” This will get y’all working and playing together. Also don’t be afraid to add an “I wonder “ to your game of “I spy”.
Dancing together. This is a great one for our older elementary and junior high kids. Playing one of the popular dance songs that your kids know and having them teach you or do the dance with you will create an environment of laughter and connection between parent and child.
Have fun connecting!