In the fast-paced, social-media obsessed society that we are currently living and raising children in, days can often feel like a fire drill. From the moment we wake up to the moment I tuck the kids in typically go, go, go. I know from talking to other parents, we are not the exception to the rule, but rather the norm.
The kids come home, we ask how their day was, throw food at them, and then rush back into the car to get to activities on time. Then it’s back home, baths, reading, and bed. And when it’s not those things, we (us and our children) are often on some sort of screen.
It’s not that conversations don’t happen. Of course, they do. The typical topics like how was your day, did anything exciting happen, what do you have for homework are usually covered? How often do we listen to their answers though? It’s not that we don’t hear them respond or that they are ignoring us. We hear them speaking, we know they are excited about the charcoal project in art class, but what else did they talk non-stop about for 15 minutes while you multitasking. You know, making dinner, keeping an eye on the baby, all while making sure little Jimmy actually does his math homework, signing permission slips, emailing carpool, and the many other tasks that need to get checked off your list before you’re back out the door. Chances are, you missed most of what they trying to communicate to you.
Throw in their devices on top of it all, and it’s become harder and harder to connect with our children. This is why I’m suggesting that we as parents need to intentionally connect with our children from time to time.
What does it mean to intentionally connect with your child?
Intentionally connecting with your child means that you both slow down, turn off the technology, and devote attention to each other. You get to know each other again. Then you make an effort to do so on an ongoing basis. You carve out time in your busy schedule and make this special time a priority.
Things change in their lives, friends change. The information they want to know about the world and about you also changes. Conversations that you have with your preteen will be drastically different that conversations with your 4-year-old. If you don’t take the time to intentionally connect, you will be missing out many of the changes that are occurring in their lives. You will be missing the opportunity to impose your viewpoints on what is currently important to them. In addition, they won’t get a chance to know you as well as they could, nor will you get to know them as well as you could.
Why should you do it?
Children love it when you shower them with attention. They remember it, they cherish it. Making them the center of your world, even if it’s just for 30 minutes will be the highlight of their day (and probably yours too).
You will get to know your child better, and possibly yourself.
It builds a stronger and trusting foundation. Both of which are super important! Think of each time you intentionally connect with your child like a coin going into a piggy bank. You are logging in time now, letting your child know that it’s ok to talk to you about whatever is on their mind. Perhaps they are having a minor issue at school with another classmate that they have neglected to tell you about until now. By giving them the forum to talk to you about their small issue, and you providing feedback/possible solutions for them, they are now banking in their mind that you are someone that they can go to when they need to talk about something. It might be a small issue right now, but they will have other questions and big issues as they become preteens and teens. They need to know that they can come to you.
This quote really puts it all in perspective for me:
“If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.” -C. M. Wallace
How do you intentionally connect with your child?
Step one, designate special parent/child time and write it on your calendar IN SHARPIE. Block it off, and make sure you do your best to not allow it to be moved or canceled.
Next, decide what to do. Talk to you child, tell them that you have some special parent/child time on the calendar. Ask them how they would like to spend it, perhaps give them some ideas that you have come up with. Stuck on what to do, see my list of 22 ideas below.
Before your special date comes up, think of some talking points that you’d like to cover. School, after-school clubs, friends, etc.
Finally, do it! When the day comes to turn off your devices and focus on each other. Perhaps there are no earth-shattering topics that they want to share with you. Maybe they just want to tell you that they are interested in learning the piano, or that they think they are ready to try babysitting. Remember, these little things are big things to them!
Ideas to try with your kids
When scheduling one on one time, I like to involve the kids in deciding a plan of action.
Here are 22 ideas to get you started:
Listen to a free concert in the park
Make a gift for someone
Teach them how to bake their favorite treat
Play board games
Build something together
Visit a farmer’s market
Visit an art gallery
Go for a hike
Grab ice cream
Visit a pet store
Make a meal together
Play at their favorite park
Take them out to lunch
Catch a movie
Make a craft together
Go for a bike ride
Visit the public library
Teach them a new card game
Shop at their favorite store
Go out for donuts
I hope you enjoy intentionally connecting with your child!