Are you Connecting?
7 ways to connect with your kids
It's All About Connection - 7 ways to connect with your kids
Are you connecting with those around you, I mean really and truly connecting? In a world where we are all "connected" most of the day, it is hard to see the lack of real face to face, person to person connection in our lives.
It really wasn't that long ago, we used to answer the phone only when we were at home (after looking at caller display to decide IF we would answer!). If work or friends were trying to get hold of us, they waited until we returned their call or saw us again. Now we are just connected 24 hours a day. You send a text and expect a reply, you are on Facebook and can see that your friend is online too, expecting an instant reply. There is nowhere to hide 🙂
I am a stay at home/work at home mom. When my kids are home, I try to put the phone down, but it's hard. When you have little to no adult interaction in the run of a day, sometimes social media is your only window to the outside world. Don't get me wrong, I take my children to activities, and get out many times during the course of a week, most weeks. I have to make a conscious decision to do so and battle with my introverted ways just to get out the door. If I can tell myself it is for the kids, then I will do it. It is the part where I have to actually talk to someone that is hard.
What is this doing to us? What is it teaching our children?
Daily I have to remind myself to stop looking at my phone or laptop, and look my kids in the eye and talk TO them, not AT them. Looking at their faces when they realize I grabbed my phone again to look something up or answer a text. It jolts you to the core sometimes. They want us present, not just there, in the same room, but present. There is no true one on one attention being given if we are constantly trying to multi-task our lives.
(Fishing, going for a walk and playing at the park, all great activities that require no phones or electronic devices)
Here are 7 simple steps to truly help connect with our children:
Hugs or snuggles
Take a few seconds or minutes each day to hug. Physical contact goes a long way to making our children feel a connection to us. My 13 year old still gets a hug before bed. I am making a conscious effort to make it a real hug, not a pat on the back. He comes to me every night for that hug, the least I can do is make it real. Younger kids are easier to snuggle with or hug. The key is to give 100% attention to them while doing so. No snuggles while talking on the phone or texting, just a few minutes totally devoted to them. It makes a world of difference. As I sit here typing, my 3-year-old asked for a drink. I picked him up on my lap for a snuggle and a nose kiss. He smiled, that's what I wanted to see.
No Electronics or Off Time
Make an effort to turn everything off, or put the devices in a different room. I like the idea of no electronics at mealtime and also none outside when it is playtime (this is more for us parents than for the kids).
Give Them Control
This is a fun and educational activity for parents. Tell your child that they are "in charge" for the next 20 minutes (or longer). They make decisions on what to do and give instructions. Not only will this make them happy, but will also open you up to seeing how your children see you and your relationship. This is a connecting activity, but may also lead to the realization of your good and perhaps not so good parenting methods. It's a great way to see how your kids feel when you are parenting them and will allow you to adjust what you are doing well and maybe not so well. It's like looking in a mirror!
Have A Routine
Routine when it comes to mornings and bedtime is very important, no matter what age your children are. Most children rely on routine to feel secure and less stressed. If you can provide a routine at least morning and evening, they will be much happier. Routine will also help slow you down and help you take that extra moment to smile and connect. With Clayton (3yrs), we read every night before bed and then tucking in, kiss goodnight and a tickle on the neck.
Play Together/ Walk Together
Many people feel playing takes time, but you can fit quality play into a busy schedule. Make your time together fun. It can be board games (maybe a game night, 1 hour, once a week), I Spy (we do this in the car while waiting for one child to finish at lessons or school), tag outside, or hide & seek with a special toy. Taking 10 minutes, or an hour, stopping what you are doing to play means so much to them. Maybe you are driving somewhere and have 15 minutes before you need to be there, stop at a park closeby for a 10-minute play. Yes, you can wait in the car or grab another coffee on the way, but that little one watching you get through your busy day will connect with you and smile at you if you stop and play! Not only does this make them happy, but will also help teach them to finish activities with a time frame. Tell them when you start that we are going to stay for 10 minutes to have some surprise fun, but we need to be "here" at "whatever time".
If you have older children, perhaps a game night or a regular walk is a good idea. Walking and talking, sometimes that is all they need to disconnect from their electronics and school life and talk to you. It's important to remember that although they NEED you less for the everyday stuff, they often need you more to be there to listen.
Talk TO Them and Validate Their Answers
I make this mistake all the time having a 3 yr old and 13 yr old. I ask a question to the older and either before or while he is answering, the 3 yr old is interrupting or into something. Trying to listen can be hard, really hard. Even though you may hear and answer, it is the acknowledgment you give that person that counts. As parents, we are always telling our kids to "just answer me!!". They will expect the same or simply not answer because that is the example we set. The best time to talk to my kids is in the car, and we are in it often during the week.
Do something THEY enjoy:
Ask them what they want to do. We have a tendency these days to schedule our children and leave very little time to do whatever they feel like doing. Try to have at least a few hours together to ask them what they want each week. You may be surprised how reasonable they are in their choices. Many times I ask, the answers are things like, go outside and swing, or play ball, maybe go to the library or fishing. It's okay to make suggestions, but start off by asking them what they feel like doing. On a rainy day, perhaps jumping in puddles and getting wet in the rain will make for the best memories and biggest smiles you have seen all week!
Our children are constantly watching us. If we are stressed, always hurried and rarely connecting with others, then they will be the same. I am not perfect and find myself falling into the zoned-out world of multi-tasking and social media all the time. It takes time and work to break habits that have developed over the course of a few years. I try to remind myself every day to step back and see things how my 3 year old would see them. It can be a sad view some days. Trying the above steps is helping, and I hope they will help you.
Feel free to share any ideas or other things you do to connect with your children.
~ Ruth Ann
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