Brave Writer Podcast: Cultivating Connection in a Large Family with Jardel Manalo
I’m guessing you need to hear today’s episode. Why?
Because I know you want to connect with your precious kiddos.
Our guest of honor, Jardel Manalo, wrote to me wondering how to achieve the “right” balance of connection with each child in her large family. Jardel would collapse into bed at the end of a busy day swirling with guilt—did she spend enough time with each child? Did her children know how much she loved them as individuals, not just as students?
We talked about:
- Planning from Behind. This is a huge sanity-saver—find out why!
- Placing value on what you’re already doing naturally—how to notice and “count” it.
- A slew of ideas for establishing connection. Listen, make a list, try one!
- Jardel’s realization about how her family of origin story impacted her as a mother.
Such a wonderful conversation!
In the midst of this holiday flurry, find moments to pause, breathe, and connect with your loved ones. You won’t regret it.
What about connecting with every kid?
If you have a large family, as many in the Brave Writer community do, connecting every day with each child is unrealistic and you’ll always feel behind. Large families will have separate homeschooling experiences with older children vs. younger. Make peace with the differences and trust that each child will connect with you in different stages and different ways.
It’s also important to acknowledge that your children are bottomless pits. There’s no possible way you can meet all their needs for connection as the sole person who offers them the experience of connection, and as they gain independence, they will seek connection with others. There will also be times when a child needs outside help, from a tutor, an online class, etc., and that is valuable connection, too.
The heart of connection is creating the context for your children to thrive. It’s you meeting their need, not necessarily being the person who undertakes or performs the need. You’re being an advocate for what your child needs at that moment in time.
A sense of well-being on a daily basis is the biggest gift that you can give.
If you’re carrying a mountain of anxiety about this, you need to start chipping away at it. Start seeing how you can connect to your children in ways that are brief yet deeply meaningful:
- A hug and kiss, physical touch as you walk by, email, instant messaging, texting, sending an emoji or a link to something you think they like, sticky notes on their door, a big heart on the mirror to see when they wake up, pancakes with a smiley face of chocolate chips, or eye contact.
- Eye contact even changes the tone of voice, softening the interaction instantly. Connection can even happen through giving a directive. No one likes being yelled to from a separate room; tone of voice and eye contact will communicate that you’re on the same team.
Other ideas for connection:
- Inside Jokes give you both the ability to wink or laugh about a shared understanding.
- 3rd Party Connection, or bragging about a child in front of that child, lets that child know you’re aware of them even when they don’t realize it.
- Don’t disqualify your progress by saying it should’ve happened sooner! You get to relax and enjoy the connection you’ve already built. It already exists and now you get to sink into what you’ve created.
- You can alleviate your anxiety by planning from behind. Validate yourself for when you connect with a child.
- Keep a calendar, or a weekly notebook, or a skatterbook. At the end of the day, pull it out and write the name of the child you remember connecting with. Trust the connection you’ve already established is holding for the other kids in the meantime.
- If you have a 30 minute chat with each child over the course of a month, then you’re doing fantastic!
- Over the weeks you’ll notice the child who hasn’t demanded anything and may need more one-on-one time. That’s your reminder to simply be more intentional with that child the next day. No guilt!
- If a child is struggling, you’ll carve out time to address, support, and monitor.
That’s it! No big plan. No worrying, no overdoing it. Let the calendar give you visual comfort and reassurance. Live this way until you’re comfortable and reassured that you’re doing a good job.
Validation & Encouragement
- Stay alert for when connection happens and write it down so you don’t forget.
- Make a date for connection with one child. Just don’t turn it into a project. It can be simple. Let your child lead.
- You’re already living and modeling that lifestyle for your children. They will carry the toolkit YOU made with them through life as they make new connections. The relationships they build will be based on your model.