Yes, a bonding walk is nice with our kids.
For both parties, it stimulates the love hormone oxytocin which is a bonding and connecting hormone. In an idealistic world, we go for walks and chat and bond. But that isn’t how it always works, is it?
As our kids get older, this hormonal connection moves away from us and toward our child's peers. Sure, they will always have a parent connection, but the availability of this bonding hormone is not as readily available as when they are a cute little cuddly toddler.
As our children get older, we need to rethink our strategies for bonding and connection. If not, we begin to beat ourselves up or take their lack of interest personally and feel the stress of disconnection.
I have parents in my practice who are so disgruntled because it’s nearly impossible to talk with their kids –their kids are angry or irritated with them, and they are sensing the disconnection. They are indeed at odds with comparing the effortless toddler cuddle with the older version who is less giving of the oxytocin hormone.
So how then do we create these moments of pure connectedness?
Let’s look at ways we as parents can stimulate oxytocin, and the reason I say this so mechanically and bluntly is that’s the hormone which will produce the results you are after – love, connection, trust, bonding, and genuine openness. You must become an oxytocin stimulating master.
Here are three rules.
Don’t force it
I’ve tried in the past to get my son to go for a run or doing things in the park like playing frisbee, all to no avail. These would seem like great opportunities to spend time, connect and bond, except one vital element is missing – his desire for it.
With disappointment and frustration at the center of my experience, I could see that because I had time, didn’t mean he was ready to engage. So I just let it be. And an hour or so later, he asked if we could hit some golf balls. I had time, and so we spent a beautiful afternoon bonding together.
Honoring right timing is a must.
Engage with their Interests
Kids are always changing, and they are most open, connected, and emotionally available when they are talking, doing, and engaging in activities they love.
Four years later, my son still talks about the two hours we spent building a Lego set in the back of a coffee shop. At that time, I had all his highest values met, which were Legos and hot chocolate with whip cream. It wouldn’t mean the same thing today if I tried to repeat that success, but he still talks about it to this day.
At that moment, those were two exciting activities, and they got emotionally anchored (bonded) into his nervous system as a connected, loving, and inspired moment.
It’s my job now, to continue to discover what those highest interests are, and work with those – just as it's our job as parents to seek out these new interests are in our children.
Asking more than telling
Picture yourself out for dinner with your spouse. Now, imagine the server coming up to you, and talking about what interests them. How memorable would that be?
If you want to create lasting memories, make your kids feel validated and loved by asking loads of questions about them and what they enjoy. Isn’t that the essence of a great relationship anyway?
It’s human nature to feel loved and connected when someone takes a genuine concern for our lives and what we like. This stimulates oxytocin, the bonding, trusting and love hormone. When this is encouraged, we naturally open up, feel connected, and instantly create memorable moments.
It is an art to be weaving your life and your child’s life together, to stimulate continued growth, bonding, and connection. We have to ensure we are not taking those early years for granted, and that as kids grow, we stretch ourselves to remember what it was like at their age.
Yes, our children love us and want to spend time with us, but not at the expense of sacrificing their new interests.
We must, as conscious parents understand and appreciate them and where they are in their life. That’s the gateway to lasting love, bonding and connection.