If I could own one tool for promoting attachment and encouraging connection, it would be a rocking chair. Rocking my children is possibly the most important thing I do to nurture them. Over the past thirty-two years, I have spent hours rocking children in my wooden rocker, in my glider rocker, and in an old hand-me-down rocking chair. Some of these chairs haven’t matched my decor, but they’ve been the perfect place to rock my little ones (and even bigger children) on a hard day.
One morning our daughter cried for an hour over a perceived injustice in the division of chores. She would not eat breakfast or talk to me; she only cried and repeated over and over, “Me two chores, my sister only one.”
Finally I coaxed her into the rocker and wrapped my arms around her. As we rocked, I whispered in her ear all the calming words that came to my mind. I told her I loved her. I told her I knew it was hard learning to live in a family, because things aren’t always fair. I told her there were warm pancakes waiting for her when she felt better. Her crying quieted, and her arms wrapped around my neck. She pulled my face down to hers and whispered, “I love you, Mom.”
We held each other close and rocked our sorrows away. The simple rhythmic, repetitive movement was calming for both of us, and it still is as we seek to connect in the hard moments.
Think about a simple way you could incorporate nurture into your daily interactions with your child. Choose one from the following list or create one of your own.
• Rock together in a rocking chair.
• Read aloud to your child.
• Promote eye contact by getting down on your child’s level to talk with him.
• Play a feeding game with your child, putting a treat into their mouth and having them put one in yours.
• Take even small injuries seriously by offering compassion and a Band-Aid.
• Take a walk together. Hold hands if your child is comfortable with touch.
• Give your child a hand massage.
• Help your older child or teen choose a fuzzy blanket of their own at the store.
• Play a game of your child’s choice.
• Sing songs to your child or with her.
• Do fingerplays with your young child. (You can find many online.)
• Use familiar connecting phrases, such as “I love you to the moon and back” or “I’m so glad I’m your mom.”
• Create bedtime routines, including prayer.
• Have one-on-one time.
• Share hugs.
• Use nicknames.
• Offer special food treats.
• Share inside jokes.
• Tuck notes in backpacks or stick Post-its on the bathroom mirror.
• Sit still and listen to your child with your full attention.
Lisa Qualls is the mother of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. She is the creator of the One Thankful Mom blog and a popular speaker at events for adoptive and foster parents. She mentors and encourages moms and dads using the methods developed by child expert Dr. Karyn Purvis.
Together with Dr. Purvis, Lisa wrote The Connected Parent to help moms and dads form secure attachments with children from all different backgrounds and restore a culture of love and respect within families.