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With Kids, Connection is the Key

We know that, but we need regular reminders

When child psychiatrist Jean Clinton starts talking you just know that before long you’ll hear words like 'relationships' and 'connecting'. Witness the following lovely little quotes from Jean’s keynote address at this year’s (virtual) Self-Reg Summer Symposium.

“Relationships are the active ingredient in children’s development.”

“Who we are is the product of experiences and relationships.”

“The brain is a social organ. We are wired to be ‘felt’ by others.”

“I have a concept of how change happens: through relationships and connection.”

Would you say you’re getting Dr. Jean’s drift?

On one hand, you might say she’s simply reminding us of good ideas that have been around for a long time. It’s easy to embrace statements that reinforce our belief in the power of good relationships. Yet, it’s worth reflecting on why Jean feels the need to keep reminding us about it. For one thing, it might be that there is so much stuff that can draw our minds away from the importance of relationships in children’s brain development.

First of all there are products, like Baby Einstein videos, specially designed toys that teach kids about animals and colours, or computer programs that claim to build children’s brains (but don’t really).

Moreover, parents’ and educators’ time and energy is constantly occupied with the tasks of caring: keeping kids safe, clean, fed and well-rested. Teaching them to behave, and, if you’re an educator, churning through those curriculum expectations. We can connect with kids when we’re tasking, but it’s not always uppermost on our minds.

Yet, the truth is, anything we do to care for, raise and teach children will go better in the context of trusting and supportive relationships. That also applies to practicing Self-Reg, which is why we say, “Self-Reg starts with a relationship.”

The strategies we use in guiding and teaching kids are never more important than the relationships we have with them. That just might be why you’ll never get Dr. Jean to stop reminding us about connecting with kids. This blog is a summary of a talk by Dr. Jean Clinton from TMC's Annual Summer Symposium - Find out more here

Read the full blog on TMC's website here

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