Suppose that you notice that your child or children interrupt you often when you may be busy on a phone call or talking to somebody in person. Why is that? And what can you do to quietly communicate your attention to your children’s woes?

Well, first of all, know that this is totally normal for any children under the age of seven. Second, know that even if they’re well over that age, it’s not malicious intent driving them to distract you from your important business. They simply haven’t learned the skill. This is not cause to be angry with them, and in fact nothing truly is. Remember — your child is not giving you a hard time, your child is HAVING a hard time!

I’m going to talk about something I would do with my first graders. I’ve talked about wearing the Hawaiian lei to let the kids know they should “ask three before me” when I was teaching other students or attending to a priority matter, but here’s another part of this equation. I also allowed them to come up to me quietly and give my hand three squeezes to let me know that they needed more immediate help with something. I would squeeze back to let them know I was paying attention and would get with them ASAP.

The hand squeeze helps both of you become aware of each other’s needs without causing a major distraction from an important task. It is also an exercise in teaching your children patience as you deal with the person or thing occupying your attention. It’s just one simple way to practice healthy communication, one more resource to deal with tricky emotions. Feel free to adapt this idea how you see fit. As you use it with your children, I hope it helps you all build trust in each other, become more attentive to each others’ needs, and less annoyed by distractions. You’ve got this!

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