We hear the words “Attachment Parenting” a lot these days.  I learned through personal experience that building connection isn’t only for adoptive parents; it’s for all parents.  In 2018, I attended the NACAC (North American Council on Adoptable Children).  At that time, I felt that I had a healthy attachment with my daughter that we had adopted internationally.  I was, however, struggling to parent my biological son who was 11 at the time.  He was angry, depressed, struggling in school, and overall pretty unhappy. 

I attended a session at the conference on connecting with your child.  The speaker gave several suggestions, two which greatly impacted my relationship with my son.  The first was to find a TV Series that could become “our show.” When you are sitting in a room, watching a show together and something funny is said, your instinct is to look at the other person in the room and smile or laugh.  Looking at another person while smiling or laughing forms connection.  This simple addition to our routine greatly impacted our relationship.  We started with “The Flash” and moved on to other shows.  I don’t know how many times we’ve watched “The Big Bang Theory” together!  We’ve now moved on to “The Amazing Race” which has lots of “Oh Wow” and “Would you do that?” and “I couldn’t eat that!” conversations.   In other words, great connection opportunities.

The second very easy thing I started doing, when he was frustrated or angry was ask the question, “What do you need?”  This simple question would often stop the behaviors that were being displayed.  Sometimes his answer was, “I don’t know” or “Nothing!”  When I waited patiently, 9 times out of 10, he would eventually be able to express what was really bothering him. 

My biggest goal is to remember to connect with my son before trying to correct him.  This is a basic TBRI (Trust Based Relational Intervention) principle.  As an adult, stop and think about the people in your life that have tried to “correct” you.  If you have no connection or a weak connection with them, how eager are you to take their criticism or advice?  Personally, the people in my life that I respect, trust and feel safe with are the people that I take criticism and correction from the best. 

As we start another busy school year, find ways to connect and laugh with your child.  Be their safe place to talk about anything and everything.  Share a sweet treat together, sit on the couch and find conversations starter cards that you can each draw from to ask random questions (for teens I love: Good Talk:  150 Conversation Cards.  This can be ordered from Amazon). 

Be creative.  There are many ways to connect with your child.  You’ve got this!

Stephanie Pearl is an adoptive parent, and the Executive Director of A New Beginning Adoption Agency. She has 25 years of experience in the social work field working in nursing homes, elementary schools, the juvenile justice system and family services.