Last Updated on March 20, 2018

In January my husband brought home two kids from the foster care system whom we are in the process of adopting. They are five and two, and they’ve had a difficult past. Right away our social worker helped me to sign them up for therapy. I’m not sure what I was thinking (white lab coat and laying down on a couch?), but most of the therapy has been with the therapist guiding me to deal with conflict and disruptive attitudes. I’m the one who goes home with homework on what to do and when.

How five minutes can make all the difference

In addition to coming up with reactive plans of action, like dealing with “time-outs,” I’m being guided on how to promote bonding and how to be proactive in connecting with them in building our relationship. With our other four children, I’ve connected with them since the day they were born, and the relationship has deepened over time. This is not the case with our newest two kids. When they first arrived I had no connection with them, and they were wondering who this lady was who was placing so many demands on them!

We are growing closer day by day, and I’ve learned that simple ways to connect go a long way. In fact, I’m going to share three of them with you.

These activities have helped me build a connection with my adoptive kids. I’ve also noted these activities promote deeper bonding with my other kids.

While each of these activities only takes five minutes to complete, spending time doing it has built my relationships with my kids and has also improved their behavior. After all (something I was reminded), kids would rather be disciplined than ignored. They often act up because they’re not given positive attention. And five minutes of positive attention can really make a difference. I’ve seen it.

3 Ways to Connect with Your Child in 5 MinutesThree “connecting” activities to try:

1. Special play time.  One of my “homework” assignments is spending five minutes of playtime with my two-year-old little guy every day with no one else in the room. We have special toys only for this purpose, and I allow him to direct the play. While he plays I speak out loud about what he is doing. “You’re playing with the red car.” I also repeat his word and/or sounds. “Vroom!” And I praise him for the positive behaviors I see. Doing this shows him I am connecting with him and paying attention. (No checking emails on my cell phone!) He loves it and asks for our “special play time.” I enjoy it, too.

2. I Love You games. Another thing my older adoptive kids didn’t get while growing up were those funny little connecting moments that children and parents naturally do, like singing silly songs, or nibbling on a baby’s toes, or playing pick-a-boo. So now, even though they are older, another homework assignment for me is to play these types of games with them. I’m teaching them nursery rhymes with hand motions, we tickle as we put on pajamas, and we even play peek-a-boo! I’ve given them what they never had while connecting our hearts in the process.

3. Teach and practice rules. When a child is put into a new home, everything is different, especially the rules. I’ve learned the best way to incorporate a new rule is to:  1) tell it; 2) explain it; and 3) act it out. I’ve used a stuffed animal to explain “time out” by walking our stuffed friend through the motions. I’ve modeled what an “inside voice” is and isn’t. Amazingly, the kids love learning the rules because they love seeing me act silly. And it does help them to remember.

These are simple things you can do with your children as ways to connect. You might be surprised how much these five-minute practices will connect your hearts and satisfy your child’s need for attention. And I have to admit I’m having fun, too!

What do you do with your child to build a bond and help him/her connect with you?

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  1. Great suggestions, Tricia. I’ve been trying to do some similar activities with my daughter who has autism. It is the little things that make a big difference.

  2. Tricia,
    Thanks for sharing these tips. As a foster mommy myself, I find that these moments with our child are building blocks for healthy attachment. One of the things I do with my 19 month old son is lots of touch like massages, caressing as well as lots of eye contact. I look forward to hearing more of your adventures. BTW: I love acting silly myself 🙂

  3. Davina Sinclair says:

    Thanks for sharing these ideas. After the birth of my daughter one of the things I did with my 3 year old was “cuddle up on the couch time”. I would try every day usually after lunch or when baby sleeping to cuddle up and read a wee book. I found giving it a name made it a more special time.