Whether our kids are big or little, in primary school or getting married, our intentions are the same: We want to have loving, connected relationships with them.
And if you’re part of this Inner Circle, chances are we’ve talked about Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Mate’s book, Hold Onto Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More than Peers. We know it’s critical for our kids to be securely attached to us and other caring adults, and that peers must never replace us.
But what happens if they do?
I’m now in that tricky territory of parenting a teen. I wasn’t even worried as Tiana seemed so securely attached, but she’s morphing before our eyes. Her withdrawal and scornful eye-rolling at mom and dad can be hurtful and infuriating. She thwarts most of our efforts to guide her, taking them as an affront to her newfound maturity and independence. Then there’s that dangerous combination of knowing all the answers but lacking enough actual life experience to guide her safely.
And nowadays, the digital world is robbing us even sooner of our kids.
There’s some fierce competition out there. I’m up against iPad games and diabolical time-sucking apps like Snapchat, and it’s no contest: Without my mama-bear attempts to claw my way back to my kids, I’d lose them to the screen. But the conflict surrounding screen-time is threatening our relationship too, making it a damned-if-I-do, damned-if-I-don’t situation. Sometimes I just want to throw up a flag in surrender and let them gorge on their devices, even if just to keep the peace.
The question is: With all this competition of peers and video games and screen time, HOW do we hold onto our kids?
There are no right answers. Our kids, families and needs all vary. But if we start this conversation and share our collective wisdom, we can help each other out. Let’s draw on each other’s creativity and experience, shall we?
I’ll start with 5 ways I’ve tried to hold on:
- Share a journal with your child. I started this with Tiana years ago as a way to help her read and write, and have recently revived our old journal to share our thoughts. There’s a nostalgia about writing notes to each other with a real pen and paper, and I’ve noticed a softness that is sometimes lacking during our spoken conversations.
- Go on a retreat together. Rivendell Retreat Centre on Bowen Island welcomes kids and teens who can respect the guidelines. Enjoy wood burning fireplaces and ocean views, going for walks, playing games, painting, reading and reconnecting (cost is by donation). Whether it’s Rivendell, a local hotel or resort, or an Airbnb cabin, try to do at least a couple of nights. The first day and night are barely enough to acclimatize, not just with the new space, but perhaps with each other.
- Have other close adults write letters to your child. For Tiana’s 13th birthday I asked the adults in her life–aunts and uncles, grandparents, older cousins and our friends—to write her a confidential letter with life advice they wished they had received when they were her age. (I’ve never read them except for those I was asked to proof-read!) They wrote about anything from spiritual/emotional/physical health to any other random tips to help her lead a full and happy life. She could hardly wait to bring her special mail box to her room and start reading the letters. She rationed them out over weeks, cherishing each and every letter. Even though Dad and I have been demoted, it’s comforting to know she has other caring adults who have her back and that she can turn to if needed.
- Play games together. I have friends who do a weekly games night, which they say has been conducive for laughs and conversation. While our family hasn’t quite established such a tradition, I’m introducing card games. The neutral territory of a game makes a safe, light environment for the family to reconnect over a few laughs and light competition.
- Work on a family puzzle. Santa brought a “family” style puzzle at Christmas that we finished recently. There were large, medium and small pieces to make it easier for Chelsea to join in as well. We left it on the coffee table and everyone ended up contributing here and there, and we videotaped the final piece being put in. It ended up being a little symbol of solidarity, as everyone noted that the whole family contributed to putting it together.
You know what’s next, don’t you? Your turn to share your traditions and tricks to keep our kids close. Kids all grown up? Give us the gift of hindsight: What worked, what didn’t, and what would you do the same or differently?
It really does take a village to raise a child. I’m glad we’re in the same village. xoxo
Purely Practical Tip
I’m also on my phone more than I should be. I’ve started leaving it in my purse when I’m at home, and let my close friends and family know to actually phone me if there’s a time sensitive matter. I also turn off alert sounds for texts and most notifications.
Join the Conversation
What about your family? How do you stay connected? Do you have any family traditions that keep you close?