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Relational Resilience Boosters
Booster 1: Engage Emotionally
It might seem obvious, but all of our most important relationships require work – lots and lots of work. This is especially true with family.
Sometimes as parents we’re of the mindset that if we are providing for our children’s material needs – working full time, preparing meals, doing their laundry – that this is all that’s necessary. But true engagement requires more.
Engagement means taking the time to really tune in and connect with someone.
Squeeze in the time to engage emotionally, even if it’s just ten minutes each day.
Making the Time
But how does one find the time to really connect when there’s so much to be done? In single-parent households or homes where both parents work, this can be challenging and sometimes seemingly impossible. Squeeze in the time to engage emotionally, even if it’s just ten minutes a day. If that last load of laundry has to get moved until tomorrow as a result, it’s OK. Here are some ideas:
Check-in with your child when you get home from work. Ask about their day and tell them about yours.
Have a dance party to your child’s favorite music while making dinner, folding laundry, or engaging in another usually-mundane task together.
Communicate your readiness to be there for your children. Say things like, “I’m running to the store, but I have my cell phone if you need anything.” Or, “I’ll be working in the garage if you want me.”
Most importantly, just listen. Every chance your child gives you to have a meaningful conversation, take it. Drop everything you’re doing and really tune in to what your child is saying. This is called active listening, and it’s a great skill.
Eat meals together as a family as often as possible.
Modeling this Booster
Engaging emotionally isn’t something that can simply be taught to your children. If you want them to be good at this booster, you’ll have to model it yourself. Here are some other ways you can engage emotionally with all the important relationships in your life – not just your children:
- Practice forgiveness.
- Don’t complain.
- Avoid criticizing.
- Find simple ways to serve.
- Don’t isolate.
- Look past an annoying behavior.
Also, monitor your use of the pronoun “I” and reduce it as much as you can. Start saying “we” more often.
Most importantly, express gratitude to family members constantly.
Discussing this Booster with Your Child
Talk with your children about the things that make them happiest in life – activities, foods, items, places, etc.
Ask your children if they feel like they have anyone in their life who takes the time to focus on these things with them. Explain that when someone takes the time to get to know you and focuses on the things you like, that’s called emotional engagement.
Ask your children what can be done in the family to make sure everyone is engaging emotionally with each other and helping each other feel special in the family. Create a plan for implementing a few of these ideas.
Do you ever emotionally disengage from an important relationship – for example, with your spouse, partner, or child? Make an effort this week to really connect with that person through quality time and lots of active listening. You might even consider writing this person a heartfelt letter describing their admirable qualities. Write in a journal about how it went.
Booster 2: Put Down that Device!
In this booster, we work on being more mindful of the people and experiences that matter most in our lives. We let go of our dependence on (or addiction to) the distractions of our electronic devices.
Did you know that the average American spends a MINIMUM of 8.5 hours a day in front of a screen – or multiple screens at once? For kids, it’s only slightly better – about 6.5 hours per day, according to one study. With the advent of Netflix, Snapchat, Twitter, YouTube, and countless apps designed with children and teenagers in mind, few would question that our country has a device problem.
For kids, brain development suffers as a result. For adults, our fixation to our screens puts us at risk for something almost worse – losing our attunement with our children.
Similar to emotional engagement, attunement means being “in tune” with someone else – recognizing their needs and emotions, empathizing with their lived experience, and feeling an overall connectedness with that person.
Reducing Electronic Device Disorder
Research has shown that electronic devices can interfere with a parents’ ability to be attuned with their children, and this can cause long-term damage – things like an increased risk for addiction, and a decrease in the child’s ability to regulate stress.
Let’s face it; we all struggle in this area. Here are some small things you can do to decrease your family’s risk for “Electronic Device Disorder”:
Have a “device-free” evening once a week where your family spends time together outdoors plays games inside, or participates in another activity you enjoy – with all screens off-limits! Have different children pick out the activity each week. The key is finding a fun alternative to screen time.
Make it a habit to turn off your phone at certain points throughout your day – in meetings, during mealtimes, while driving, or right before you come home for the evening.
Similarly, regulate tech-free times at home – for example, no screens at dinnertime and just before bedtime.
Create your own “cell phone sleeping bags” for the times you want the family to be unplugged. Use socks or other phone-sized pouches and have your kids help decorate them with buttons, sequins, glue, and markers.
Create a family challenge for a “screen-free” day. Celebrate your success by going on a family outing at the end of the day. Talk about how it went.
Our fixation on our screens puts us at risk of losing our attunement with our children.
Here are some more ideas to keep us in tune:
- Regulate tech-free times at home – for example, no screens at dinnertime and just before bedtime.
- Create your own “cell phone sleeping bags” for the times you want the family to be unplugged. Use socks or other phone-sized pouches and have your kids help decorate them with buttons, sequins, glue, and markers.
- Create a family challenge for a “screen-free” day. Celebrate your success by going on a family outing at the end of the day. Talk about how it went.
Discussing this Booster with Your Child
Calculate with your children how many hours each day you are all spending on devices or in front of a screen. Include video game time, TV time, phone time, tablet time, etc. etc. Combine everyone’s estimated time and show the total.
Explain the definition of Electronic Device Disorder: when you become so fixated or dependent on a device that you lose focus of the people around you. Ask if, based on the total number of hours you’re all spending on devices, you think Electronic Device Disorder is a problem in this family.
Together with your children, brainstorm ideas on alternative activities that you can do when you’re tempted to get on a device. Look at the list on the previous page for ideas.
Do you feel disrespected by your family members’ use of electronic devices? Think about your own electronic device habits. Is it possible that your spouse or children could feel the same way about your own use? Pick one of the “unplugging” strategies listed above – or think of one on your own – and try it this week. How did it go? Would you do it again?
When we’re constantly turning towards the others in our lives – wife or husband, brother or sister, friend or colleague – we build rich relationships that keep us strong and resilient. Engage emotionally at every chance you get, and you’ll see your resilience soar.”Christian Moore – The Resilience Breakthrough, page 71