Children with a trauma history don’t receive correction well unless they have connection to a safe, loving caregiver. As a result, it is essential that parents be intentional about taking time to connect with their hurting children every day. Unfortunately, as parents, we tend to focus on correction first.
Cindy Lee, Executive Director of the Halo Project, spoke at the 2017 Empowered to Connect Conference. During her talk called “Healing Ourselves, Healing Our Children,” she presented the concept of One-on-One Time as a practical way to make that connection time happen each day. These are the components of Ms. Lee’s suggestion:
- Ten minutes per day.
- At the beginning of the time, hold the child’s hands and look into his or her eyes and say, “This is our one-on-one time. You get to choose what we play.”
- Child directs the time of play.
- No teaching, questioning, instructions, or commands from the parent, as doing so during this time inhibits them from being who they are.
- At the end of the time, hold the child’s hands and look into his or her eyes and say, “Thanks for spending time with me. I look forward to doing it again tomorrow.”
Ms. Lee continued to explain that eye contact, both at the beginning and end of the time, is essential to making stronger connection. She noted that the parent’s tone of voice should be cheerful, but regulated according to the tone and volume of the child’s voice during the time. The interactions should be playful, and the parent should try to match the child’s behavior. For example, if the child is building a tower with blocks, the parent should build a similar tower. Finally, parents should try to praise the character of the child during the time, which doesn’t necessarily have to do with the behavior (i.e., don’t compliment how well built the tower the child built it, but instead remark as to how hard the child worked to build it.)
This One-on-One time can be done with any age child, including teenagers, to increase connection. Some examples of connecting activities with teens include listening to music together, watching a TV show and talking about it, doing pedicures, taking walks, and playing basketball.
Since hearing Ms. Lee’s presentation in April of 2017, Chosen has seen countless parents achieve success with this technique. One adoptive mother told us that she started to actually like her daughter after being consistent with one on one time. If parents will take the time to spend this ten minutes a day with each struggling child, connections will strengthen and relationships will improve.