Dear Dr. Allen: Exercises to strengthen the kid/parent connection
In our society, there has always been a disconnect between parents and their kids. In some families it is minimal and in some a great divide. The difference in the generations naturally creates this also. The emphasis on independence facilitates a separateness in relations.
This disconnect has grown with the infusion, or should I say invasion of technology. Additionally, the current restrictions on being with others and limiting relationships, have increased the disconnect.
For the past few years, we have been leading workshops for parents and their child/teen designed to strengthen the parent-child connection. Families leave the workshops feeling joyful, happy and understand each other much better.
Following are some of the exercises we use. To do them, schedule an uninterrupted hour or more for two family members to get together. The pair may be a parent and child or a husband and wife or other combo. The goal is to practice listening and understanding each other, heart to heart. These exercises are only the beginning to building better connections with one another, but they are a start.
Rules: No interrupting. No critical or judgmental comments. No parental lecturing or dominating. Listen with care and respect.There are no right or wrong answers.
During each exercise, each person should write down their answers. After completing the questions, share your answers and listen to the other person’s reactions.
Exercise one: for parent and kid
- What recent, personal accomplishment is your kid/mom or dad most proud of?
- Name one of your dad/mom/dad big disappointments this year.
- What are your kids/parent’s current prized possessions?
- What is your kids/parents favorite food?
- What is most challenging about school or work for your child/mom/dad?
- What does your kid/parent like about school or work?
- What does your parent/child like to do in their spare time?
- What types of music does your parent/child listen to?
- Which TV shows, movies, actors/characters, and athletes are popular with your child or parent and his/her friends?
- What causes your child/parent the greatest stress?
- What would/did your child/parent like to be when he/she grows up?
- What is something that really upsets your child/parent?
- What did your parent want to be when he or she was a teenager?
- What does your child/dad like to do with you?
- What does your child/parent love about you?
- Share what advice you would you tell your middle school/teen self and why?
- Share what was a great thing about being a middle schooler/teen.
- Share what was not so great about being a middle schooler/teen
- Share some things you liked about your mother, father and about your grandparents, when you were a kid?
- What advice would you give your kid if you become the parent of a middle schooler?
- What is one thing you feel parents don’t understand but wish they did?
- Name three things that are good and three things that are bad about being a middle schooler/teenager.
Exercise 3: Parents and kid/teen
Kid: Suggest what mom/dad could do to have more fun in her/his life?
Together: Name and share two strengths/positives you see in each other.
Kid: Share what you could take care of yourself, in your life, that your parents can start to let you do.
Together: Identify when during the week you can meet together and do a fun activity together and connect? What day of the week? What time of that day/night? Doing what activity?
Dr. Greg Allen is a Licensed Therapist practicing in Palos Verdes Estates. (DrGregAllen.com). He is the founder and director of Freedom4U, a non-profit that seeks to guide youth towards their life purpose and thereby reduce risky lifestyles. (freedomcommunity.com). His new non-profit Hearts Respond, will focus on supporting LA Harbor families in socially and emotionally challenged areas. (heartsrespond.com)