Whether it is due to the busyness of life these days (from sports to school to cub scouts to youth group) or if it is all the distractions we have created with technology and screens, there are days when I feel like I am so busy caring for my kids, that I don’t feel like I have really connected with them. Some days feel like our conversation doesn’t go much beyond, “Wash your hands”, “Get in the car”, “Set the table” or “How was school?” And we all know how deep that last one is!
So rather than heaping on the guilt for one more thing I don’t do “right”, I came up with some easy ways to connect with my boys in the midst of the hectic days.
Connect with Your Kids
1. Don’t multi-task! Okay, I confess, I am the Queen of multi-tasking! Do you know how hard it is for me to just do one thing at a time? Like just watch a movie with them (instead of using my phone to catch up on emails all while folding the laundry) or just sit quietly while I wait for my child to finish his (what seems like) 2 hour lunch? So, for me, the first way to connect with my kids is to simply be with them, to be in the moment and put aside all distractions!
2. Learn about their interests (and/or develop interests together) Admittedly, this is really challenging for me (especially with all boys) as I couldn’t care less about video games or Star Wars or football (shhh!) However, I try to learn the lingo (the dinosaur years took a little extra studying!), so I can carry on a conversation with them and ask questions (see #3) to delve deeper with them. When I don’t understand something, it is harder to remain engaged and not tune them out when they are telling me in detail about the 5th level of Mario Bros. Again. And trust me, kids can tell when you are just giving them to the obligatory “uh-huh” and “oh yeah?” and when they feel like you don’t care about what they have to say and their interests, it can make them feel like you don’t care about them. So it’s time to start studying up on the latest Calico Critters, American girl dolls, Minecraft and rules of baseball!
One thing that can be a fun (and successful) way to connect with your child is to develop an interest or hobby together. My husband has begun doing model trains with our oldest son and neither of them are allowed to work on it unless they are both available. My 5 year old and I have developed an interest in the Little House on the Prairie books together (although that one came from my own childhood and I was lucky enough to get him interested in my own obsession!). In fact, reading any series of books together can be a great way for you to connect with your child. Find a book you both are interested in (Need ideas? Check out this blog What Do We Do All Day? for amazing resources for age appropriate read aloud books) and you can you read it to your child or take turns reading it aloud to each other depending on the age group. Reading engaging chapter books with both of my boys has been such a fun way to connect-it’s like we are in a secret club together! We even have stolen some luxurious moments where we ignore everything else and just read together under a blanket and cuddle! It warms my heart just remembering those special connections!
3. Ask Questions In all my college courses and teacher training, I have always been taught about “active listening” where you are supposed to echo or mirror back what you heard the speaker say. You rephrase what he (or she!) said, in your own words, so that he feels heard. However, I have found a tool that works even better with my kids: asking questions. It works wonders when my kids are talking to me about something and I ask them questions about what they are saying. If my middle child is telling me about his favorite Mario game and I ask him to tell me how Princess Peach got captured or where she was kept, it really gives him the sense that I am engaged with him and care about what he has to say. This also has been a wonderful tool with my tween son as well. I have started encouraging him to tell me about different movies he has been seeing (lately he is catching up on all the Super Hero movies) and when I ask him more details about what he has seen, he really gets the sense that I care about him and what he is sharing (and most days, I do!)
4. Get Active Have you ever gone to the park with your kids and climbed on the play structure with them? Swung on the swings? Took a turn on their scooters? Bounced on your own trampoline? Played basketball? Done cartwheels? What about playing wave tag at the beach? Or a neighborhood game of kickball? I don’t know if it is just because it is so unusual for me, but when I put down the book or my phone (or hand off the baby!) and join in their play, their faces just light up! We have fun together, we laugh and play and we end up feeling so much closer afterwards. It’s worth it. Every. Single. Time.
5. Get on the floor With 3 kids, this is a rarity for me. Again, I feel like I have my hands full taking care of the baby (and his brothers), so I don’t feel like I have time to sit down and play with him! But the other day, I just sat down on the floor with him and not only did we get to play with cars and such, but he got to climb all over me and sit in my lap as he pleased. I really think he enjoyed having this moment to get his mommy all to himself! And just a few moments of feeling his chubby arms around my neck and inhaling his sweet baby scent really gave me the perspective I needed to get me through the rest of a crazy day!
Getting on the down on the floor doesn’t just apply to the littlest ones, however. From time to time, I remember to do this with my 5 year old too! We taped white mural paper on the floor recently and laid on our bellies while we drew pictures. He also loves playing board games and doing puzzles on the floor with me as well.
I believe in small changes and living realistically, so I am going to just stick with 5 tips this time! What do you think? Are these easy enough? Do you do already do these things? Do they help you connect with your kids? Any other EASY things you could share with me? Would love to hear from you!