Every year, I have the chance to get out of the office and lead a handful of Youth Frontiers retreats. Whenever I’m on retreat, teachers and administrators comment on how great it is that I get the kids to talk to me. The reality is that these kids often are not really talking to me – it’s more of a short exchange that I call the “10-second connection.”
It usually goes something like this:
Me: “Hey John. How’s it going?” (2 seconds)
Me: “Heard you’re playing hockey this year.” (3 seconds)
Me: “That’s great. Anything I can do for you?” (3 seconds)
Me: “Thanks for being a leader on the retreat today.” (2 seconds)
This simple conversation lets John know three important things: First, that I am concerned about his life and how he is doing. Second, that I know something about him. Third, that if he needs anything, I’m available.
All of this happens in about 10 seconds, which isn’t long enough for John (or me) to feel awkward, but is an opportunity for a kid to connect with an adult.
One of the keys to creating the “10-second connection” is to keep it free of judgment. You’ll want to show that you know about something going on in their life, but refrain from weighing with your opinion. In my experience, if a kid senses an agenda, they’re unlikely to trust or listen to you.
You’ll also want to be sincere when you offer your help. If you’re going to say, “Is there anything I can do for you?” then you have to mean it. Most of the time kids aren’t going to take you up on your offer, but if they do, you can’t act surprised or find yourself suddenly busy. You’ve got to be present.
When it comes to teenagers, the “10-second connection” is invaluable (and in some cases all you’re going to get). With younger children, this kind of consistent practice can set the stage for a bigger conversation.
Even if nothing substantial comes out of the “10-second connection,” it’s still an invaluable exercise for reflective parents. How is my child feeling? Where are they in their life? What might they need? A gesture like this may seem small, but it also gets you out of your own head and focused on your kid, their friend or a neighbor’s child who may just need some acknowledgement. Remember, you can make an impact – even if only for a quick “10-second connection.”