There have been many times when I just wasn’t sure if I was connecting with my children. Sometimes I felt a disconnect because I was working a ton of hours and there just wasn’t any physical time we overlapped (awake anyway). Sometimes it’s because they wanted to do something repeatedly (play the same Barney song, read the same book 10 times in a row, etc.) and I just wasn’t up for the tedium. Sometimes I just really wanted to focus on me – read my book, chat with my friends, watch a TV show without animation.
Regardless of the reasons for the distance between me and my kids – it happens. I suspect this is normal – unless you’re supermom (and I do know a few). I think many of us struggle with that nebulous concept of balance – of being there for our children without losing our selves in them. I know plenty of moms that feel guilty. This isn’t a new concept.
However, I have been reminded lately how easily kids will forgive you and how little effort it takes to connect with them. They don’t need hours and hours of your attention and, in fact, you can give them hours and hours of proximity and yet never give them attention or connect with them. Although being in the same space with your family is a good start – that’s not all there is to it.
How to Connect
Quality means a lot more than quantity in this situation – and likely if you extend this to other relationships in your life too. Here are some tips on how to build that relationship:
- Give undivided attention – when possible give them your attention without the interference of siblings or chores.
- Listen carefully – that means stopping what you are doing, physically turning your body to face them and then listen.
- Ask meaningful questions – show them you’ve heard them by asking questions that are on target. Show them you know what’s important to them by asking questions that tie the conversation to their passions. Use these questions as learning moments too.
- Make eye contact – there are physical chemicals released when people make eye contact that trigger affection.
- Find something you both enjoy and do it together – teach them your favorite card game or favorite sport – then play it together.
- Play – laughing together is the best way to build a relationship. You can do this easily and without much time commitment.
Ideas for Free Bonding with your Kids
Making memories and forging a relationship doesn’t have to involve a lot of money. In fact, most of the things kids remember don’t cost a penny.
- Camping – We recently took the kids camping and I was reminded of all the family benefits of camping together. The beauty of camping is that it is relatively inexpensive or free, all of the distractions (video games, phones, tv’s, etc) are missing, and everyone is working together toward a common goal. There are so many positives it is impossible to list them in a post.
- Sports – Practice their sport with them. Show them a genuine interest in their athletics while having fun and hopefully laughing together. Plus it’s good exercise. Even if they aren’t on a team you can still goof around – play catch, kick the soccer ball around, throw a football, take them to the tennis court and smack some balls, go swimming, ride bikes, take them fishing, whatever you like to do – teach them and play it with them.
- Date nights – Everyone always expounds upon how important date nights are for marriages, but they can be equally useful for your relationship with your children. Making a routine of a night out alone with one child is memorable and priceless to them. One family I know has the Dad take the kids out to dinner on their birthday – alone – every year. When I was a kid, my Dad took me out to dinner every Thursday night for calamari – just the two of us. You could take them to a movie, or a picnic, or to get your nails done, maybe a girls’ lunch. Be creative. The important part spending one on one time together and making it somewhat special. Also, if you can make it a routine – the first Monday of every month or whatever – it is even more powerful.
- Open door policy – We’ve recently created a system called 15 minutes. Basically, my daughter knows that she can say she wants 15 minutes and when it’s bedtime I will go to her room and we will have 15 minutes to talk together. We created this as an opportunity for her to tell me if something was bothering her, if there were any issues she wanted to discuss, problems she wanted help resolving, etc. But ultimately, it just lets her know that she can request my undivided attention – but I can decide when to give it to her. So basically, if she is whining or upset or demanding during the day I can say – let’s talk about this more during our 15 minutes, ok?
- Common interests – Kids are pretty much open to learning anything, so if they show an interest in something you like to do – then use it to build a relationship. It could be baking, crafts, scrapbooking, gardening, or any number of things. It can be something as simple as watching a TV show together every week or teaching them a card game or a board game you routinely play together. Puzzles can be good because there is time to talk while you’re working on it and you can stop and come back to it later. Whatever it is for you, just involve your kids too.
I’m always looking for fresh ideas and would love if you added some of yours in the comments.
What works for building these connections in your family?