“It’s the little, ordinary parts of our family life that our kids will remember. The feeling of what it was like to be home and to belong.”
Happy Campers Secret #1: Connection Comes First

Kids need our full, undivided, undistracted attention for at least a few minutes every day. As little as TWO minutes a day of giving your child your full attention will make a big difference in your relationship with them and in their behavior.

While with our own kids, we need to connect every day (not just for 10 days!), I chose 10 days as the length of this connection challenge based on research in education about how in just 10 days of focusing on connecting with students, teachers see changes in student behavior.

2×10 Relationship Building—originally coined the “two-minute intervention” by researcher Raymond Wlodkowski and popularized in Allen Mendler’s Connecting with Students—is a Tier 2 intervention that helps build teacher-student relationships, reinforce positive behaviors, and convey genuine support to an individual who might be typecast as a “challenging student.”
-2×10 Relationship Building: How to Do It (and Why It Works!)

This sounds so simple, but it is not easy.

I’ve often marveled how, in our busy, go-go-go family lives, days and weeks can go by without any real one-on-one conversations with our kids that address more than what time soccer practice ends or what homework they still have.

One-on-One Check Ins

On our counselor job description, one of their duties is to “check in with each camper, every day.” We call these check-in meetings “One-on-Ones.” Counselors ask campers specific, open-ended questions to elicit how campers are feeling. The counselors ask about their friendships, activities, how much they’re missing home, what’s going well, and if they need help with anything.

These are individual conversations, out of earshot of other kids, that last anywhere from two to five minutes. The campers get accustomed to the check-ins, so they’re not surprised when their counselor starts chatting with them.

As a simple way to deepen your connection with your own kids, and know how you can best support them, try having at least one daily one-on-one chat with each of them, modeled after what camp counselors do:

  • Turn off or put away your phone (and have them put theirs away, too).
  • Stop doing everything else (cooking, looking at a magazine, etc.).
  • Give your child your full attention (eye contact, body turned toward them, not thinking about other things).
  • Ask them a few open-ended questions. “Tell me about the best part of your day” is an easy place to start.

Your one-on-one chats can be anytime. You can make it a daily ritual over after-school snack, while sharing a hot drink, or while tucking them in at bedtime, but that small, concerted daily investment of time will lead to a closer connection between you and your kids.

If your kids are already teens, know that the best way to have one-on-one chats is to be open to whenever they initiate talk with you rather than forcing them to be on your schedule. When they talk, drop everything else you’re doing, focus on them, and listen!

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