Strategies to Support Your Child to Develop Grit: Part 2

Grit is the passion and perseverance to strive for long-term goals, despite discomfort. This includes working hard, enduring struggles, and trying again in the face of failure. Grit is not only a better predictor of future earnings than intelligence and talent, it is also a better predictor of future happiness.

The parenting stance most supportive of children developing grit has been referred to as Wise Parenting. The wise parent is one who is warm and supportive (kind and helpful), respectful (of your child’s identity, point of view, privacy), and demanding (holds expectations and accountability regarding family rules and values, without punishment). This has also been referred to as “love, latitude and limits”. 

The main ingredients your child needs to grow grit are interest, practice, purpose and hope. If you would like to help your child develop grit, consider the suggestions below.


Talk about Your Family’s Values: Connect the things your child does on a day-to-day basis to core family values. For example, talk about the importance of determination, hard work, loyalty, and commitment. 

Emphasize the Impact on Others: Connect what your child is doing to other people so they can get a larger sense of purpose. Emphasize the social value of what they do. 

Examples: For sports, emphasize their approach to learning a new skill, the importance of challenging the body, connecting with other people, and good sportsmanship. For the arts, you may emphasize the value of emotional expression and creating an emotional experience for others.


Encourage a Growth Mindset: Do not attribute accomplishments to intelligence or talent – why work hard for something you believe you cannot change? Teach your child that innate talent and intelligence do NOT promise anything, it is only with perseverance that people are able to accomplish their goals. Instill in your child the hope that with persistence they can grow. Praise your child for their tenacity and determination rather than being “smart” or “talented”.

Avoid a Focus on Outcomes: Focus your comments and feedback on your child’s approach to challenges (their behavior), rather than outcomes (failure or accomplishment). Teach your child that what matters is how they approach the world. Resist the temptation to improve your child’s approach, as constant intervention or criticism undermines confidence and interrupts the learning process. Perfection is not the goal.

Provide Support When Your Child Experiences Frustration: In order to learn in the face of adversity, and to increase your child’s optimism and hope, they will need your warmth and support. What you say to them, they will eventually say to themselves. Let them know 1) that you understand their frustration and that you can see that the situation is indeed difficult,  2) that you have faith they will overcome the situation if they persist, and 3) that you are right there with them to offer suggestions if they wish or to pick them up if they fall.

Failure as Opportunity: Teach your child that failure is nothing to be afraid of, it is not a permanent condition. Failure is not the end, but rather it highlights opportunities for learning, growth and connection. When your child struggles, provide support, remind them this could be an opportunity, and offer to brainstorm ideas with them.

Live It Yourself: Create a culture of grit in your family and live by it yourself. Model the setting of goals and priorities, and then sticking to it to completion. For example, set a “Hard Thing Rule” in your house, where every member of the family is working on something difficult for them that is both interesting and requires deliberate daily practice. Everyone must stick to their selected challenge for a set period of time, and no one is allowed to quit or change their goal midway. Try new things that do not come easily to you and talk about it.

Control Your Anxiety: Allow your child to try things and do them independently. Do activities with them, rather than for them. Remain focused on the positive and keep your criticism in check.

See the Spring 2020 Edition of Family Matters for more ideas related to interest and practice.

Written By: Dr. Sherry Van Blyderveen, PhD, Clinical Psychologist, New Leaf Psychology Centre

Reference: Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

Strategies to Support Your Child to Develop Grit: Part 1

Grit is the passion and perseverance to strive for long-term goals despite discomfort. This includes working hard, enduring struggles, and trying again in the face of failure. Grit is not only a better predictor of future earnings than intelligence and talent, it is also a better predictor of future happiness. 

The most supportive parenting stance used in helping children develop grit has been referred to as “wise parenting.” The “wise parent” is one who is warm and supportive (kind and helpful), respectful (of your child’s identity, point of view, privacy), and demanding (holds expectations and accountability regarding family rules and values without punishment). This has also been referred to as “love, latitude, and limits.” 

The main ingredients your child needs to grow grit are interest, practice, purpose, and hope. If you would like to help your child develop grit, consider the suggestions below. 


Create Opportunity: Introduce your child to a variety of new experiences. For example, before choosing what instrument they will play, let them see, hear, and touch a variety of instruments. 

Invest and Commit to Your Child’s Interests: The greater your child’s interest in an activity, the more likely they will persist. Help your child choose an activity they are most interested in, and then commit to investing and supporting them in developing that interest. Have at least one extra-curricular activity that you enroll them in year after year. Invest extra time helping them develop the skills necessary for this particular activity. 


Insist That Your Child Honors Their Commitments: Acquiring a new skill is often initially exciting— when learning happens quickly—but after which further skill development usually becomes effortful and less noticeable. It is at this time that you will need to emphasize practice and offer greater emotional support, while remaining firm that your child persists. Insisting that your child honors their commitments, rather than quit, allows them the opportunity to experience the benefits of persistence, learn how to better tolerate frustration, and emphasizes the family values of loyalty and commitment. 

Allow Your Child to Experience Manageable Frustration: Learning from challenges and failure are key for children to make the connection that achievement does not come easily. Only when we experience frustration first-hand can we learn that effort can lead to learning. Frustration is an opportunity for growth, and an opportunity to learn how to overcome challenges. Create situations where your child must undertake tasks just a bit above their skill level and encourage them to try what they cannot yet do. Encourage risk taking and put challenges in front of them. Praise their bravery. Tell your child when you personally take risks, too, and explain how you handle failure with dignity. 

Provide the Necessary Support to Overcome Frustration: Repeated failure—especially without the experience of overcoming the failures—can discourage a child from taking on challenges in the future. Be sure to work with and support your child in overcoming their failures. Teach them the skills they need to be successful, and then offer emotional support as they tackle the challenge again independently. 

Set Goals Together: Encourage your child to set goals and support them in developing a plan to achieve those goals. Establish daily routines that allow for practice and eventual attainment of those goals. 

Teach a Process: When faced with challenges, help your child set a small specific goal related to their performance, help them to focus on this goal and strategize how to achieve it, and encourage them to seek feedback on this particular aspect of their performance from others. Once they have attained their goal, set another small specific goal and continue with the process.

See the Summer 2020 Edition of Family Matters for more ideas related to purpose and hope.

Reference: Duckworth, Angela. Grit: the Power of Passion and Perseverance. Scribner, 2018. Written by Dr. Sherry Van Blyderveen, Clinical Psychologist, with New Leaf Psychology Centre. Also on Facebook and Twitter

Forgetful, Disorganized, Overwhelmed, and Late? Bolster Your Child’s Executive Functions

Executive functioning skills are those that help us get tasks done. When faced with a decision, problem, or task it is necessary to plan, organize, problem-solve, make decisions, and then initiate action. We must do each of these steps all the while focusing on multiple pieces of information, monitoring new information or errors, self-correcting direction if necessary, managing our frustrations, and resisting temptations to abandon the goal. This requires holding the overall goal in mind while also focusing on details. While this comes easy for some people, this is not easy for everyone, and it is most common to have strengths and weaknesses across these domains. Executive functioning abilities impact our children’s day-to-day lives, from academic settings to social situations.


Maintain Routine and Predictability

The more predictable and routine daily life is, the less overwhelmed your child will be. This means keeping a morning, after school, and evening routine, and having your child complete tasks in the same order daily. When you are adding a new task or expectation to your child’s routine, add it to an existing routine, rather than creating a new routine, to improve recall of this new obligation.

Keep a Weekly Schedule

Keep a weekly and monthly calendar in a prominent place in the home (e.g. on the fridge, by the front door). The schedule should include all school, sports, extra-curricular, and social events. Review the schedule with your child twice a day, once in the morning to be sure you are organized for the day, and once in the evening to be sure you are ready for the next day(s).

Use Very Detailed Lists

Generate very detailed lists for daily and academic tasks. Be sure to provide very specific details. For example, create a test taking list that includes the following: “write your name on the top of the page, read the first question completely before answering, and check test over for completion”. Add more specific items to the list if you see your child forgetting steps that you may have thought were obvious and did not initially include. Examples of helpful lists include: a morning routine, after school routine, and a bedtime routine, backpack checklist for before and after school, and test taking checklists. Consider laminating these checklists, and allowing your child to cross things off with a dry erase marker once a task is done.

Offer Opportunities to Plan and Organize

Use daily family life as an opportunity for your child to practice planning and organizing events that are of interest and relevance to them. Ask your child to plan a family meal, game night, or an outing. Have them generate a list of all the materials needed, a loose schedule or timeline to follow, and match this with a checklist.

Talk Out Loud When You Problem Solve

When your child is overwhelmed and stuck with a problem, talk out loud about how you might go about approaching the issue. Be sure to explain the big picture, as the big picture is sometimes not clear for children with executive functioning difficulties. Then, coach them step by step through their situation, letting them carry out the specific steps/ tasks themselves.

Be Patient and Educate Yourself

Once you understand what executive functioning skills are, and how they affect your child, it will be easier for you to approach crises with tolerance and patience. Getting mad or giving consequences will dampen your child’s spirit, and won’t change their behavior (they are not misbehaving, they have a specific weakness which requires your support; this does not come easily for them). Staying calm, being patient, and taking a problem-solving approach will help your child feel supported, and will provide them with opportunities to grow.

Be Realistic

As with any new skill, it takes practice and repetition to learn. Don’t implement more than one of the above strategies at a time. Add new strategies once the initial strategy has been mastered. An executive functioning coach may be able to work with you to identify a strategic targeted approach to the necessary skills your child needs most.

For more information and executive functioning strategies check out internet resources (e.g., books for parents by Peg Dawson, or schedule a consultation with an Executive Functioning Skills Coach at New Leaf Psychology Centre (905-878-5050).

Strategies For Tackling Procrastination

Procrastination is the tendency to delay or hesitate to act on something. All of us procrastinate from time to time, but some of us do so more than others. If you want to reduce your tendency to procrastinate, start by reflecting on why you procrastinate. Your motivation to complete any task is dependent on four factors: expectancy, value, impulsiveness, and delay. By understanding these four factors, you will be able to make changes in your thinking and habits that will allow tasks to be more readily accessible and approachable to get done on time.

Expectancy (Confidence)

If you expect to do well on a task, and are confident in your abilities to do so, it is more likely for you to be able to tackle a task. In order to increase your optimism about your ability to succeed at a task, try the following:

  • Set yourself a challenging goal and achieve it, then remind yourself of this accomplishment when you tackle challenges in other areas of your life.
  • Connect with others who are persevering and achieving their own goals (i.e. those in support groups or friends), or read inspirational stories of others overcoming challenges.
  • Break large tasks into smaller tasks, then focus on completing one task at a time. Completing the first small task will increase your confidence in completing the task as a whole.
  • If you struggle with overconfidence, try to be more realistic by reminding yourself of obstacles that may stand in your way of task completion, and the cost of your pattern of procrastination (e.g. missed deadlines, incomplete projects).


We are also more motivated to complete tasks we value and care about. If a task is boring or unenjoyable, it may be hard to value it.

  • Connect the task with larger, more powerful goals, and your core values.
  • Reward yourself for task completion.
  • Combine a less enjoyable task with a more enjoyable task (e.g. workout with a friend).


The more impulsive you are, and the less willing you are to delay gratification, the more likely you will be distracted by activities that are immediately gratifying. Counter or prevent unproductive impulsiveness by doing the following:

  • Remove cues for temptation, and increase cues to remind yourself of your work and its importance (inspiration board, images of completed project).
  • Make more rewarding tasks more difficult, so you are less likely to choose to do them. For example, keep your technology in the least accessible room of the house so you have to make a conscious decision and effort to check your email, send a text, or check social media.
  • Schedule time for activities you find fun and enjoyable, so that when temptation strikes, you can tell yourself, “I can do that later.”
  • Ask someone to hold you accountable.


The longer you must wait to see the benefits of any task, the less motivated you will be to complete it. If the benefits of a task are in the distant future, you will need to remind yourself of those benefits in a way that is vivid and motivating.

  • Imagine yourself succeeding at your goal, and then imagine yourself not succeeding at your goal, use the discrepancy between the two to remind yourself why you set this goal.

Other Considerations

Other factors that may be impacting your ability to complete tasks include lack of sleep, depression, emotion dysregulation, executive functioning difficulties, lack of clarity regarding your priorities, and unrealistic expectations about what you can or should be able to accomplish in the time you have.

For more strategies to beat procrastination, read The Procrastination Equation: How to Stop Putting Things Off and Start Getting Things Done by P. Steel, or book an appointment with Jeffrey Zeuner, Occupational Therapist at New Leaf Psychology Centre.

Teaching Your Child How To Resolve Conflict

Especially between loved ones, conflict can be emotionally distressing. It is not uncommon for adults to find it difficult to manage conflict when emotions are high, and as a parent you may find the task of teaching your child conflict management daunting.

As a parent, one of your first goals for teaching conflict resolution will be to improve your child’s understanding of their own emotions and the emotions of others in situations of conflict.

An understanding of perspectives will improve your child’s empathy and compassion for others during conflict, which will consequently allow them to better determine viable solutions to the problem.

To help your child understand the multiple perspectives to any situation, draw a triangle on a piece of paper, labeling the corners ‘me’, ‘you’, and ‘observer’. Ask them to first explain their perspective, then the other’s perspective, and then what someone else watching might have thought (e.g. another child, their teacher, a grandparent). If they struggle with this task, ask them specifically how each person feels, what each person thinks of the situation, and what each person wants. Make brief notes of key ideas at the corners of the triangle as your child explains the situation. This task is particularly difficult for young children, so if your child is young, you may need to explain the perspectives of the other and observer or elaborate on what they provide.

Once your child has finished explaining each of the three perspectives, summarize the situation for them by highlighting the feelings, thoughts, and wants of each. Then ask your child how they believe the conflict can be resolved.

Continue to take this approach with each new conflict, even if your child struggles with this task. If emotions are too high in the moment, try this approach later when your child has calmed, as it is difficult for anyone to problem-solve when emotions are high. Do not expect your child to be successful with this approach every time; this is a skill that takes practice. The short-term goal is to direct your child’s attention to their own thoughts and the thoughts of others, to interrupt the strong feelings they are having at the moment, and to better understand the perspective of others in each situation. Once you and your child have fully assessed the conflict situation, you will each have a clearer idea of what options are available to resolve the conflict. The longer-term goal is to further develop your child’s empathy and understanding of others.

Reducing the Risk of Postpartum Depression

It is common for women to experience a period of distress as they adjust physically, emotionally, and practically in the aftermath of labor and delivery, while also caring for their newborn child.

This period of distress often includes significant mood swings of frustration, irritability, sadness, weepiness, exhaustion, anxiety, preoccupation with the health of the infant, and alertness regarding their infant’s well-being as they get to know their child. Although such symptoms are common in the first two weeks postpartum, they begin to resolve as the body recovers and women adapt to their new life. A smaller proportion of women – approximately 10 to 20 percent – go on to develop postpartum depression, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Each of these mental health difficulties are marked by mood and/ or anxiety symptoms that are persistent, severe, and prolonged, and the symptoms impact the woman’s ability to carry out day to day tasks. Although postpartum depression, anxiety, and OCD can affect any woman, women with a history of mental health struggles, poor emotional or practical support, lack of consistent sleep, and poor self-care practices are at a greater risk.

Here are some strategies you can use to either reduce your risk of developing postpartum depression, anxiety and/or OCD, or to promote recovery if you are already suffering:

  • Nap when your child sleeps. It is essential to your functioning that you make up for lost sleep during the night. This is the most important strategy on this list.
  • Allow others to pitch in around the home so that you can get the sleep you deserve. Do not wait for others to help, ask for help. This will help reduce stress and/ or guilt regarding productivity, which for many women limits their willingness to nap.
  • Make your expectations realistic and flexible. Caring for a newborn means you will have less control over your day-to-day life, since your plans will have to accommodate your child’s changing needs and routines.
  • Be kind to yourself and create moments of self-preservation. It is essential that you take time to relax and engage in some form of self-care daily. Whatever activity you choose, it should be at least 15 minutes a day of something that will make you feel happy and more relaxed.
  • Engage in some mild to moderate exercise daily.
  • Eat regularly and well, and avoid caffeine and alcohol.
  • Don’t expect to have the perfect child. Your baby will not follow developmental expectations exactly, nor will they follow schedules.
  • Don’t expect to be a perfect parent. You cannot know everything and do everything right.
  • Join a support group for new moms.
  • Join a play group for moms and their babies.
  • Remind yourself that you have many special and exciting moments waiting in your future. The challenges of adjusting to your new role will lessen; you will find a routine, you will learn to be more adaptable, your body will heal, and you will have time to do groceries and tidy your home.

If you find yourself with symptoms of postpartum depression, anxiety, or OCD, follow the above strategies, and consider the following, as well:

  • Speak to your family physician or obstetrician about the risks and benefits of medications.
  • Find a therapist. For postpartum anxiety and OCD, be sure that you seek out cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
  • Have your partner read The Postpartum Husband by Karen Kleiman.
  • Be realistic in your expectations of recovery, it will take time.

Postpartum depression, anxiety, and OCD do not usually go away on their own – intervention and treatment are needed. Don’t let your symptoms prevent you from enjoying your child and your new role.

Your Weaknesses Do Not Define You

We all have areas of weakness – parts of ourselves that we want to improve, or aspects we wish were different. This is part of being human. By nature, we are all imperfect. Even when we are working hard to improve ourselves, we will inevitably make mistakes.

  • When you are unhappy with something about yourself, or something you have said or done, try one or more of the following:
  • Remind yourself that this one moment, one aspect of yourself, one thing you have said or done, does not define you in your entirety. You are a multidimensional person with a great deal of other attributes. You are not your weaknesses!
  • Ask yourself what this incident tells you about yourself— what motivates or drives you?
  • Remind yourself that such moments are necessary for self-growth and learning opportunities.
  • Be compassionate and kind to yourself. Be sure your self-talk is as kind and compassionate as how you would speak to a loved one (e.g. child, friend or partner).
  • Remind yourself that everyone is imperfect, and you are not an exception.
  • Try a mindfulness meditation: focusing on your breath, close your eyes and take a long slow breath in, imagining you are breathing in all of the suffering of others with a similar challenge, and then exhale slowly, imagining you are breathing out healing, love, and compassion for them and yourself. Repeat at least three times.
  • Accept your weaknesses, they are part of you, they do not define you, you are okay as you are. Once you have accepted your weaknesses, if relevant, spend some time problem solving how to reduce their impact on your life. (This is different from trying to fix or remove your weaknesses; it is finding a path around them instead, so you can still reach your destination.) Then, turn your focus towards your strengths.

When you accept yourself as you are and acknowledge your weaknesses, you are in a much better position to cope with whatever life sends your way. Accepting yourself and your weaknesses will allow you to see yourself more fully, as a multidimensional person. Doing so will:

  • Allow you to be kinder to yourself.
  • Increase your compassion for others despite their imperfections.
  • Help you to make life choices that are consistent with who you are, which will improve your overall comfort and happiness in life.
  • Help you choose relationships with people who are compatible.
  • Make you more aware of situations that make you vulnerable to being unhappy.
  • Improve your self-awareness and self-understanding, leading to increased clarity regarding life’s decisions.

See our website for the complete article which includes an age-appropriate way to teach these concepts to younger children.

How to Talk to Your Child about Death and Dying

Coming to terms with our own mortality is a difficult task for adults, and a terrifying one for children. Developmentally, children begin to understand the impermanence of life and the finality of death between the ages of 4 and 8. Initially, children will be curious, ask questions, and play out death scenes from video games or movies. As their comprehension grows, children often become fearful of losing their loved ones, and as a small child, the thought of separation can be extremely distressing. Calming your child who is coming to understand death and dying can be a futile task; below are a few things to be mindful of at such times.

1. Use plain language
When explaining your beliefs regarding death, be sure to use plain language. Be direct and honest. If your explanations are too detailed or vague, your child will be confused, and you run the risk of them losing trust in you as a source of information about the world and their lives.

2. Avoid the word “sick”
When talking about someone dying, whether it is a person or a pet, be sure not to describe their death as the result of an illness. Telling children that someone has died because they were “sick” introduces new sources of anxiety. Children do not know the difference between someone being sick with the cold, or sick as a result of a terminal illness. Telling children sickness causes death results in increased anxiety when they or someone they love becomes sick, regardless of the cause of the illness. When you talk about death, be sure to separate it from illness. That is, death is the result of the body stopping, and not working anymore.

3. Limit your explanations to the questions they are asking
Fully understanding the concept of death for children is a process that takes time, since their understanding of it shifts alongside brain development. You will need to match the information you provide with where they are at in terms of their understanding. You can do this by asking them what questions they have, and asking them what they need from you. Respond only to the questions and needs they are expressing, and save further details for when they tell you they are ready.

4. Don’t expect to be able to reassure them immediately
Coming to terms with our own and others’ mortality takes time and volition. You may not be able to speed up this process, and you certainly cannot change reality. It is common for parents to attempt to calm their child with a discussion of probability (e.g. “yes mommy will eventually die, but we hope that doesn’t happen for a long time”). While this can be helpful for some children, for others, timing and probability is irrelevant. Although we know that in the future our children will be independent and better equipped to deal with our death, this is not something children can easily imagine, as it is outside of their experience.

5. Help your child self-regulate after the conversation
Sometimes during these conversations children will perseverate, and the conversation can go on for quite some time if you don’t interrupt it. If you find your child repeating the same questions or statements, despite reassurance and your answering their questions, you may need to interrupt the conversation. In doing so, it is important to tell the child their thoughts and feelings are important, and that you understand them, but that continuing the conversation at this time is not helpful. Ask your child to put their fears into a box, or tell one of their dolls to hold on to the fears for them, until another day. Then, engage your child in a distracting task such as reading a book, talking about their day, or making plans for a family outing. When they bring up the topic on another day, be sure to take time to have another discussion with them.

Social Media and Your Mental Health

In addition to the obvious risks of social media, such as providing a medium for public bullying and shaming, there is a more insidious risk. Use of social media can be damaging to your general well-being, and even your mental health. There is now a growing body of research showing that social media use is associated with poor body image, anxiety and depression, as well as hopelessness, a risk factor for suicide. The more time you spend on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Vine, and Snapchat, the less happiness and life satisfaction you will experience. Ironically, you will also feel a greater sense of social isolation and disconnection. Both hopelessness and social isolation have powerful negative influences on our well-being, mental health and physical health.

Social Comparisons

One of the primary reasons social media is believed to have such a negative impact on well-being and mental health is that it facilitates frequent and large quantities of social comparisons. As we scroll through what other people have chosen to highlight in their lives (usually their successes/accomplishments and altered photos), it is difficult not to compare ourselves and make judgements. Because most people highlight their accomplishments rather than their failures on social media (relationship status, new child, home renovation, recent vacation, promotion, great meal out, another adventure), when we compare ourselves to them, the probability is high that we will view ourselves as worse off. Nobody’s real life is as exciting as someone else’s social media persona.

Excessive Use

For some people, use of social media can become excessive. If use of social media results in a neglect of other aspects of life, is used to escape life, and results in a preoccupation or obsessive thoughts about using social media, professional help may be needed. If you or a loved one is experiencing excessive use, stopping may be difficult, due to both psychological and physiological responses.

Reducing the Impact of Social Media

Stopping use of social media has been associated with improvement in mood and well-being. If that is too difficult, or you use social media to connect with loved ones living away at great distances, use in moderation.
It is important to keep young children’s use of social media to a minimum, and build social media free time into you and your family’s day, especially on weekends and during family times (e.g. dinner, visiting extended family members). Face to face interaction, without the distraction of technology, is essential to our well-being. There should also be a cutoff time for you and your children each night. Do not check your accounts more than 40 minutes before bed or during the night. The anxiety and stress related to social media increases physiological reactions, making sleep more difficult to attain, while the light from devices suppresses melatonin.

Improve Your Relationship by Turning Towards Rather than Away From One Another

Maintaining the romance and securing the longevity of your relationship does not require expensive dinners out or romantic trips away. In fact, one of the strongest predictors of connection and relationship stability is the very mundane day-to-day moments where couples turn towards, rather than away from each other. This includes moments where your partner asks for help finding their keys, makes a comment about something they’ve noticed, complains about their work day, or asks you to put down your phone. How you choose to respond to such bids for your attention is crucial to the success of your relationship. Consistently turning towards each other builds a sense of trust, togetherness, and connection, which serves as a buffer when you face challenges in life and in your relationship.

Reach Out. It is important to take the time and effort to turn towards your partner on a regular and consistent basis. It is important to tell your partner about your day-to-day activities, share your opinions, and generally share your thoughts when you are together. Turning towards and reaching out can also include physical touch, humor or teasing, invitations to engage in an activity, and requests for help or support. For example, ask your partner to go with you when you walk the dog, to help you with a new life goal, or share a funny situation that you witnessed. It is also helpful to build in routines where you can turn towards each other, such as a check-in phone call before you drive home from work, eating meals together, or cuddling each night before bed.

Respond to Reaching. When your partner makes a comment or request of you, take the time to acknowledge and then respond. You don’t need to have a long poetic conversation, but you do need to acknowledge your partners bid for your attention and respond. When the opportunity presents itself, be helpful; this will increase your sense of working as a team. Research suggests that couples who remain together respond to each other’s bids for attention approximately 86% of the time.

Don’t Take It Personally. We all vary in our need for time alone with our thoughts and feelings. It is important to accept your partner’s needs for solitude, and view this as a need rather than a rejection of you. Acknowledge the ways in which your partner does turn towards you, even if it is not in your preferred format (e.g. your partner may prefer humor or touch, rather than conversation, while you prefer conversation and the sharing of ideas and plans).

Eliminate Obstacles. One of the biggest obstacles in your partner’s bid for attention is distraction. When we are task oriented (e.g. trying to make dinner before getting the kids to their after-school activities) or unwinding (e.g. during screen time), it can be difficult to allow the interruption of your partner’s bid for your attention. It is important to always turn towards your partner, even if only for a brief time. If you are task oriented, invite your partner to join you; if you are unwinding, consider putting down the activity and talking about what you were doing or thinking. It is also wise to consider limiting your own, and not just your kids, screen time, to allow greater opportunity for connection. A second obstacle for missing your partner’s bids is emotionality. When bids for attention are emotional, intense, or critical, it can be hard to respond without getting critical or defensive in response. In this situation, try to respond to your partner’s bid, not their delivery, and when expressing your own bids, try softening your initial request.

For more information on effective strategies to enhance your relationship refer to The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by Dr. John Gottman. Couples completing each of the activities in this book show improvements in their marriage that are sustained for more than one year after they have completed the book. Turning towards one another is one of the behaviors Dr. Gottman and his colleagues found when watching couples interact for a single weekend, that predicted their remaining together years later.