We are wired for connection. It takes time — quality and quantity — to build strong, healthy connections with our children. When we fail to spend time with them, it can be very detrimental to their physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual development. As an adoptive parent, I have seen the damage caused by lack of attachment. Reactive Attachment Disorder can be extremely hard to deal with — for both the child and the parents. A child with RAD feels insecure and has a difficult time trusting anyone. People who don’t understand RAD often misinterpret the child’s friendliness — a child with RAD will go to anyone, hug them, and appear very affectionate. However, the more time a child with RAD spends with an adult, the less comfortable they will feel. These children fear connection, and will start to act out when anyone gets too close to them. In a family setting, these children can be disruptive. However, with patience and consistent nurturing, these children are able to build connections and go on to lead healthy lives.
I had the pleasure to interview Ruth L. Snyder. Beautiful You Life & Creativity Coach and Best-selling Author, Ruth L. Snyder, helps Christian business women write, publish, and profit from their books. She has been endorsed by Murray Pura and Jeff Goins.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us your “childhood backstory”?
Thanks for your warm welcome! My family lived in South Africa and Botswana from the time I was six weeks old, until I was 11. At that time, there was no internet, or cell phones. Letters were the only connection between our relatives in North America and our family in southern Africa. I found I enjoyed writing, and I also loved children. I dreamed of the day when I would be a wife and mother.
Fast forward to the early 1990’s. My husband and I found out, after a few years of marriage, that we would not be able to have children of our own. We decided to pursue adoption, and over the course of ten years we adopted five beautiful children. I continued to write, and took some writing courses, but didn’t really consider myself a writer until I entered a Canada-wide contest for novice writers and won first place. My winning entry told the story of our journey through infertility into adoption and the world of special needs.
When people ask me why I write, I tell them I write because of my children. They have taught me so many things about life, acceptance, love, and what is truly important.
Can you share the story about what brought you to this specific point in your career?
My children now range in age from 11 to 22. Over the past several years I’ve had experience with writing everything from magazine articles and short stories to full-length books. I started out working with traditional publishers and then learned about self publishing. I also completed the Beautiful You Life Coaching course. People have asked me to help them figure their way through the publishing maze. I enjoy helping people write their books, publish them, and then profit from them.
Can you tell us a bit more about what your day to day schedule looks like?
LOL I don’t have a consistent schedule. For one thing, I still have four kids at home, and they all have different schedules. Our seventeen-year-old is in his last year of high school, doesn’t have his driver’s license, and has a crazy school schedule. That means I spend up to three hours a day getting him to school and back. However, there are activities I make sure to fit in every day: exercise, reading my Bible and praying, making meals, supervising chores, spending time with my kids, and working on my business.
This year I am focusing on building my book coaching business, with the help of Amanda Petri-Goldman and her team. Every week we strategize next steps and report on progress. This has helped me be more intentional with my time. I have also been working with Murielle Marie, a creativity coach. I’m finding that when I nurture my creative side, I have more energy and use my time more productively than when I try to power through. Murielle has encouraged me to celebrate my strengths as a multi-talented creative, as well as recognizing my weaknesses and working around them.
Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. This is probably intuitive to many, but it would be beneficial to spell it out. Based on your experience or research, can you flesh out why not spending time with your children can be detrimental to their development?
We are wired for connection. It takes time — quality and quantity — to build strong, healthy connections with our children. When we fail to spend time with them, it can be very detrimental to their physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual development.
As an adoptive parent, I have seen the damage caused by lack of attachment. Reactive Attachment Disorder can be extremely hard to deal with — for both the child and the parents. A child with RAD feels insecure and has a difficult time trusting anyone. People who don’t understand RAD often misinterpret the child’s friendliness — a child with RAD will go to anyone, hug them, and appear very affectionate. However, the more time a child with RAD spends with an adult, the less comfortable they will feel. These children fear connection, and will start to act out when anyone gets too close to them. In a family setting, these children can be disruptive. However, with patience and consistent nurturing, these children are able to build connections and go on to lead healthy lives.
On the flip side, can you give a few reasons or examples about why it is so important to make time to spend with your children?
Children need to be nurtured. They need us to provide the basics, like food, clothing, and shelter. However, they also need love and affection on a consistent basis. Our children need a relationship with us, which of course takes time.
Failure to thrive due to lack of touch has been documented many times. In her book, Born for Love: Why Empathy is Essential…and Endangered, Maia Szalavitz states that up to one third of the babies in orphanages die from lack of love.
Parents provide experiences that give a child a foundation, a place of safety from which to launch out into the unknown. Without this foundation, children become stuck and are not able to mature.
According to this study cited in the Washington Post, the quality of time spent with children is more important than the quantity of time. Can you give a 3–5 stories or examples from your own life about what you do to spend quality time with your children?
In our day and age it’s easy for family members to spend time on technology instead of spending time connecting with each other. Quality time doesn’t have to be complicated. I have been intentional about meal times with my children. At least one meal a day, we all sit down to eat together. No phones or books are allowed, and we sit around a table rather than in front of a television. This encourages eye contact and discussions.
I get up and start my day early so that I am grounded and at peace when my children get out of bed. I greet them with a smile and make myself available to give them a hug. Often I will put on inspirational music (they let me know what the like!).
I drive one of our sons to school. Instead of turning on the radio, or listening to music, I make myself available to talk. I try to ask him open-ended questions about topics that are interesting to him. That means I’ve had to become familiar with Minecraft and Roblox. He likes to tell jokes too. We have some of our best discussions while we’re driving, because often it is just the two of us in the vehicle and he gets my undivided attention.
My daughter looks forward to our story-time before she goes to bed. I allow her to pick the books, and then I read to her. She usually picks a mystery, or an animal adventure story. While reading, I will pause to see if she can predict what is going to happen next. Sometimes we’ll laugh about what happened, or discuss how a character could have made a better choice.
We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed and we may feel that we can’t spare the time to be “fully present” with our children. Can you share with our readers 5 strategies about how we can create more space in our lives in order to give our children more quality attention?
I find I need to be intentional about making space in my life and in the lives of my children. I choose to limit my personal evening activities to two or three evenings a week. I also limit my children to one or two after school activities.
Technology can take over our lives if we are not careful. I have a rotating chore list for my children. They all know that homework and chores come first. There is no technology until after a child completes his chores. (When my children were younger and didn’t have homework, I required them to read for 20 minutes before they could spend time playing games on an Ipad or computer.) Even after chores and homework are completed, I limit the time they are able to play, and set a timer so that they know when the time is up.
I have been intentional about leaving Saturday mornings open, and we usually sleep in. It’s easy to cheat on sleep during the school week when we are all busy. I find having that one morning a week to relax makes a huge difference for all of us.
When my children were younger, there was no technology or television after 7 pm. Now that they are older the time has changed to 8:30 or 9 pm. This encourages them to read, or play a card game, or build with LEGO. It also allows their brains and bodies to slow down and get ready to sleep.
Our family has chosen to set Sunday aside as a day of rest and recreation. We attend church together as a family. Sometimes we will invite an individual or a family to join us for Sunday dinner. The afternoon and evening are left open for family time, which could be going for a walk, enjoying a ride on ATVs, swimming, or even enjoying an old movie together as a family.
How do you define a “good parent”? Can you give an example or story?
I would say a good parent is an individual who takes the time to get to know the strengths and weaknesses, interests and abilities, and temperament of each child, and then finds ways to help each child grow and mature. My goal as a parent is to raise children who are personally happy and publicly useful. I think this looks different for each child and parent.
My youngest child likes cats and sewing. Her brother enjoys Minecraft, hockey statistics, and jokes. One of the twins reads Consumer Report and can tell you all kinds of facts about different vehicles. The other twin designs LEGO buildings and enjoys the outdoors. My oldest child is artistic, competitive and is thrilled to have a job as a school bus driver.
How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or story?
I believe the best way to inspire my children to “dream big” is to model it myself by being a life-long learner, trying new things, sharing my dreams with my kids, and then celebrating accomplishments. When my youngest daughter was only one year old, I won the writing competition I referenced earlier. After that, I set aside time to write on a consistent basis. My children witnessed me writing and submitting my work for publication. I shared my passion for reading and writing with them by reading to them and with them. They celebrated with me when my writing was published. Two of my children now take great delight in finding typos in printed materials.
As my children have grown older, I have encouraged them to try new things. I have cheered them on. When they get discouraged, I remind them of hard times I’ve experienced. It is exciting to see some of them catching the vision and dreaming big.
How do you, a person who masterfully straddles the worlds of career and family, define “success”?
I define success as using my gifts and abilities to make a difference in the lives of my children, my community, and whatever sphere of influence I’m given.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better parent? Can you explain why you like them?
BOOKS: Love You Forever by Robert Munsch, which shows how what we teach our kids often comes back full-circle. Little Quack’s Hide ‘n Seek by Lauren Thompson and Derek Anderson, is a delightful, playful book that reminds me to have fun with my kids. Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Mate’ explains many of the themes we’ve been discussing.
PODCASTS: Focus on the Family has themed podcasts (https://www.focusonthefamily.ca/listen) on marriage, parenting, Adventures in Odyssey, and movies. I appreciate the practical tips and interviews with people who make mistakes and learn from them.
RESOURCES: For those who adopt or have foster children, the North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC https://www.nacac.org/) provides amazing resources and an annual conference where the kids get to have fun while the parents learn practical tips and network.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My personal life lesson quote is, “God takes our weakest moments and deepest hurts and transforms them into a powerful, life-changing story only we can share.”
Often we want to hide our weaknesses and our hurts, but I’ve discovered that they can be our greatest assets. Others are encouraged when we share. When I was struggling through infertility and then had a miscarriage, I felt like life was hopeless. God used that pain to open my eyes and heart to the needs of children waiting to be adopted. God blessed me with five beautiful children I may never have known if I hadn’t experienced infertility. My children became the impetus for me to write so that I became an author, they taught me how to break tasks into small steps so I became a coach, and their struggles turned me into a strong advocate for those who have no voice.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I have a dream of a world where people with special needs are loved, accepted, and belong just like everyone else. A world where they have friends who value them and laugh with them, not at them. A world where people take the time to get to know the gifts and abilities they have to offer, instead of focusing on what they can’t do or be. I have a dream of people with special needs going to college, living in their own homes, and having meaningful jobs. Let’s create that world together.
Thank you so much for these insights!