“Connection is the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”
~ Brene Brown ~
God, in His infinite wisdom and grand design, created humans with a survival-based need for connection. At birth, we enter this world fully dependent on others for our survival. But our needs go far beyond physical. Yes, we
need others to feed us, shelter us, and protect us. But we also need intimate human connection to survive. We need to feel warm arms holding us, to see love reflected in the eyes of our caregivers, to receive frequent movement
when our caregivers rock and sway with us, to feel gentle and firm touches on our skin. These intimate connection behaviors communicate safety to us and create an environment within our brains and bodies that is perfect for growth.
In our hurried society, we often miss opportunities for deep interpersonal connection. As I reflect on when our kids were tiny, I remember times when I would stand in the kitchen and talk with them as I made dinner or cleaned the
counters. We would have sweet, silly, chatty conversations, but my mind was pulled in multiple directions and I was not down on their level, touching them and looking them in the eye. I remember realizing how important it was that
I pause, sink down to their level, look them in the eye and smile a warm smile. Now that they are teens, and both are nearly my height, eye contact is easier to come by! But I still have to be intentional to pause and look them in
the eye while we talk and to let them see the love and joy I feel for them reflected through my eyes.
As the coronavirus sweeps through the world, there absolutely are uncertainties that strike fear in us. We’ve had to make major shifts to the way we do life. But we are resilient people. We are creative. And we are finding ways to thrive
in the midst of all of the change. So, join me as we make a mental shift and consider our current quarantine situation as a gift. We have been gifted time for connection, limited space to connect within, and limited people to connect
with. We have been gifted the time to slow down and choose how we want to fill the hours of each day.
Let’s take a deeper look at the quote by Brene Brown. Connection is energy. Connection is a life force. Connection is the energy that exists in the space between two people when we engage in behaviors that cause one another to feel
seen, heard and valued. Connection occurs when two individuals can give care to one another without obligation, receive care from one another without guilt, be authentically themselves without judgment, and experience safety, nurture
and strength from the relationship. Doesn’t this sound like an incredible premise to base our family relationships? Isn’t this what we long for in our family relationships, but often lack the time to cultivate? Let’s embrace this gift,
seize the opportunity we’ve been given, and see how our families emerge stronger and more connected following the quarantine.
As we creatively explore ways to connect, we will be most successful if we remember that our households are filled with individuals with very unique personalities, interests and needs, and we want to ensure that every household member
feels seen, heard and valued. Most families have at least one individual who is not accustomed to voicing their ideas or opinions. So, explore ways to draw them out and include their interests in the family plans. Let’s practice
Curiosity and Negotiation, seeking to know one another more intimately and negotiating to ensure that everyone’s relational needs are met. Many of the following suggestions encourage different members of the family to take the lead.
This will certainly mean that there will be times when you’ll have to do something that is not generally fun or interesting to you. So, practice curiosity. Remember, that the goal is connection - seeing, hearing and valuing one another.
We can certainly do that, intentionally, in short bursts of time, right? Here are some ideas to get your creative interactions going.
- Create an activity jar - have each member of the family write down 5-10 activities on separate pieces of paper (all quarantine approved), add them to the jar, and pull one out each day during “activity jar” time
- Share family meals - around the table, with no devices, engaging in dialogue. Consider having one family member plan the entire meal and be the master chef. Allow that person to decide if they prefer to prepare and serve the meal
on their own, or if they want to have the family work together under their guidance.
- Play board games or card games
- Play games that require touch and eye contact
- Engage in projects together
- Create daily challenges
- Exercise together
- Find something that makes you LAUGH. And laugh often with your family.
- Follow an artists’ tutorial together
- Read a story aloud together
- Ask open-ended questions - the Ungame offers a great array of prompts. Or you can use Google or Pinterest for a list of questions. Take turns asking and practice active listening.
- Have your child or spouse introduce you to something they love
- Teach your child or spouse something you loved to do as a child
- Google mindfulness and practice a new mindfulness skill together daily to build up your “toolbox” of calming, grounding techniques. Respect that every individual’s toolbox will be unique. We can ALL benefit from developing a
- Make a list of people you’d like to show care to outside of your family, and plan out your deliveries or acts of kindness
- Create skits, plays, or puppet shows
- Look through old photos or videos. Share stories and memories with each other
- Plan a family theme night - include theme-oriented clothing, foods, drinks, music and movies
- After a few weeks of lots of togetherness, consider creating a family motto. Decide together what characteristics best describe your family and document it somewhere
Studies have shown that fun, play, and creativity disarm fear. When we engage in fun, playful and creative activities, we give our brains and bodies a reprieve from the effects of fear (the flood of stress chemicals through the brain,
tension in our muscles, racing mind, heart and breath). We are all experiencing high-stress states these days, and we need the balance that connection and fun can bring.
May God truly bless you and your loved ones with moments of fun, lightheartedness and connection.
Written by Jennifer Giles, MS LPC