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5 Tips for Staying Connected with Your Children When You’re Busy

5 Tips for Staying Connected with Your Children When You’re Busy

We seem to be busier with work and other distractions in our lives than ever before, and that can make it challenging to stay connected with your children. Kids will inevitably gravitate towards whatever has the biggest influence in their lives. If you do not forge a strong connection with your children, they will look to create a strong connection with something else. That other strong connection can have a bad effect, whether it is the poor influence of bad friends or the debilitating effects of spending too much time with technology.

But how can you forge a strong connection with your children when you are busy? Fortunately, you don’t need to plan some overpriced and annoying trip to Disney World to stay connected. Here are some easy ways to show how much you value your kid.

Turn off the Car Radio and other distractions

If you commute a lot, you almost certainly listen to the radio or a podcast. And you may continue to do that out of habit if you are driving your child to soccer practice or school.

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But those fifteen minutes you spend driving can be a valuable time to connect with your child. Ask them what they think about where you are taking them, how their day is going, or whatever comes to your mind.

It should be noted that the quality of the time spent with your kids matters more than just the sheer number of minutes. But even a few minutes in the car is a good place to start connecting as you try to make time for other, better activities.

Eat Together

Families are eating together less than ever, and The Atlantic states that “the majority of American families report eating a single meal together less than five days a week. For most of human history, sitting down and breaking bread was an opportunity for people to get together and discuss everyday things together. The Atlantic notes that children who eat with their parents are healthier, have better grades, and are more likely to avoid drug or alcohol problems.

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You may be too busy to eat a huge meal with your child every day, but even a light lunch and conservation is a good way for you to find out about what your child is doing. If you have a bit more time on weekends, try cooking something with your child that he likes such as cookies or pancakes. Cooking is always a useful skill to teach, and you should enjoy having those few hours to try something new with your child.

Give Gifts

We may buy gifts for our children on birthdays and Christmas, but you can also buy small gifts for your children at another time. The act of giving in and of itself shows the child that you really care about them.

What sort of gift should you buy? I would avoid toys or anything expensive because you do not want to spoil them. Look for something which they may be interested in, such as a baseball cap or some nice decorations. If they don’t like the gift, try not to feel disappointed or angry, but talk with them about how maybe you can get them something they will like if you can spend better time with them.

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Share secrets and life lessons

Children like to think that parents are perfect, but we are not and should not pretend to be. Sharing life lessons or talking about past mistakes will make you more relatable to your child and teach them that it is okay not to be perfect. Furthermore, your child can take your life lessons to heart and hopefully avoid making the same mistakes that you did.

Such lessons and intimacy can be built over shared activities you do with your children. Try taking them out on an excursion, like a fishing trip, which can be really exciting, especially for a child. Places like Ultimate Fishing Charters makes the process easy, even if you don’t have a boat.

However, I would stress that when you talk about mistakes, talk about mistakes you made when you were their age instead of ongoing troubles. You should not burden a child with the troubles of adulthood.

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Do NOT be their friend

In all the time that I have spent dealing with children, this is the most important thing I was taught. Obviously, you should treat your child with kindness and respect, understand what they are interested in, and play with them. But you are a parent and they are a child. And children do need to understand that they sometimes have to listen to what their parent says. As Psychology Today notes, “a parent who desires to be a friend to their child is going to have a much harder time holding a child accountable.”

Balancing the desire to treat your child well while making it clear that they do have to listen to you is one of the biggest challenges in raising a child. But while you should listen to your child and be kind to them, understand the importance of setting limits and do not be afraid of grounding or punishing them.

Featured photo credit: Jako Jellema via flickr.com

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Published on May 21, 2021

Bedtimes For Kids At Different Ages (Your Go-To Guide)

Bedtimes For Kids At Different Ages (Your Go-To Guide)

Bedtimes for kids might be one of the most challenging parts of the day. Parents are tired and ready to relax, while kids of all ages seem to find extra energy and want nothing to do with sleep. One more story, one more trip to the bathroom, and one more question quickly make for a late-night, and no one gets the rest they need.

If this happens often, you might start wondering if you and your child are getting the proper amount of sleep and how to make bedtime easier. Why is it so crucial for your child to get enough sleep? What does sleep deprivation look like? How do you improve bedtimes for kids?

How Sleep Impacts Your Child’s Health

Whether young or old, sleep is a vital part of staying healthy. There are many benefits to getting the right amount of sleep while not getting enough can have negative consequences. How does it impact your child?[1]

  • Brain Function – Sleep is linked to certain brain functions such as concentration, productivity, and cognition. These all impact a child’s behavior and academic success.
  • Weight – Sleep patterns affect the hormones responsible for appetite. A lack of sleep interferes with the ability to regulate food intake, making overeating more likely.
  • Physical Performance – Sleep impacts a person’s physical abilities. Proper rest means better performance, concentration, energy, mental clarity, and faster speed.
  • Physical Health – There are many ways sleep promotes health. Sleep heals the body but also helps prevent disease and health issues. Getting proper rest will regulate blood pressure, help prevent heart disease, reduce chances of sleep apnea, reduce inflammation, boost immune system, and lower risk of weight gain.
  • Improve Mental Health – A lack of sleep has a negative impact on mood and social and emotional intelligence. A child not getting proper sleep is more likely to experience depression, lack empathy and be unaware of other people’s emotions and reactions.

Sleep, Risky Behavior, and Teens

Studies found that teens were more likely to engage in risky behavior when they are sleep-deprived. They’ll have problems regulating their mood, making them more short-tempered, aggressive, and impulsive. Their inability to self-regulate can even look like the symptoms of ADHD.[2]

Sleep deprivation becomes hazardous when teens are driving. The impulsiveness and risk-taking, along with exhaustion, put them at a higher risk for accidents. In fact, driving tired is comparable to driving with a blood alcohol content of .08.[3]

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You can see why sleep is so essential to everyone’s health, but how much is needed? What do pediatricians recommend? Is it the same for all ages?

Sleep Recommendations From Pediatricians

Sleep requirements vary by age. It won’t be the same for every individual. Some people find that they need more sleep than others.

Here is a basic guideline of what pediatricians now recommend:[4]

  • Ages 4-12 months: 12-16 hours (including naps)
  • Ages 1-2 years: 11-14 hours (including naps)
  • Ages 3-5 years: 10-13 hours (including naps)
  • Age 6-12 years: 9-12 hours
  • Age 13-18 years: 8-10 hours

Increase the amount of sleep if your child isn’t thriving on the recommended amount.

Signs Your Child Isn’t Getting Enough Sleep

There are ways to tell if your child is getting adequate sleep beyond the usual grumpiness. Here are specific things to watch out for:[5]

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  • Excessive sleepiness during the day
  • Difficulty waking up on time
  • Hyperactivity
  • Depression
  • Inattention
  • Mood swings
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Irritability
  • Impatience
  • Impulse control

As you can see, prolonged lack of sleep can cause relational problems and hinder your child’s ability to do well in school. What can you do if you realize your child is not getting enough sleep? How can you improve bedtimes for your kids?

How to Set Up a Bedtime Routine

Sleep hygiene or a bedtime schedule will help your child fall asleep faster. It will also improve the quality of sleep. You will need to adjust to what works for your family, but the following suggestions can help everyone have a more pleasant bedtime.

For Babies

Most people think they have to let their baby “cry it out” at bedtime. However, there are ways you can teach a baby to sleep without tears, making the experience more pleasant for everyone. In fact, studies show the faded bedtime method—or gentle sleep training—is just as effective as leaving a baby to cry but without the stress.[6] What is gentle sleep training?

Gentle Sleep Training

This method eases babies and young children into falling asleep on their own. There are two ways to do this:

1. Positive Routines With Faded Bedtime

Kids learn to fall asleep easily by using comforting, quiet, and predictable rituals, up to twenty minutes long. The key is to choose a bedtime that’s not too early. A child that isn’t tired will only fight sleep.

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Start the process when your baby or child is sleepy, even if it’s later than you’d prefer. You’ll notice a pattern and quickly discover the time they naturally start winding down. Make this their bedtime for now. They will learn to associate sleep with the routine, and you’ll be able to start fifteen to twenty minutes earlier to slowly adjust their schedule.

2. Sleep With Parental Presence

With this method, you lie down with your baby or child until they fall asleep. Over time, you pay less attention to your child, gradually sitting up, then sitting in a chair. Eventually, your child will be able to sleep without you. A study showed that using this method helped infants sleep longer and wake up less.[7]

Both of these ways take time but are effective and less traumatic than leaving an infant or young child to cry.

More Tips to Help Your Baby Sleep Better

You want to build a routine, but how? What are practical things you can do to help your baby get ready for bed?

Here are tips for a soothing and calm bedtime:[8]

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  • Help set their “internal clock” by exposing them to natural daylight, daytime activities, and the calmness of evening.
  • Block blue light exposure.
  • Make the hour up to bedtime calm, peaceful, and pleasant.
  • Learn how to keep stress minimal for you and your baby.
  • Don’t force sleep. It will increase anxiety and make rest more difficult.
  • Avoid late afternoon naps
  • Prolong the time between nap and bedtime.
  • Feed baby right before bed.
  • Avoid intervening too soon if the baby starts to wake up. Give your child a chance to fall back asleep without your help.

For Elementary-Aged Children

It’s easier to follow a routine if you start young, but it’s never too late to begin. The good news is it only takes a few nights to notice an improvement in your child’s sleep.

These ideas will help you set up a schedule that will encourage your child to fall asleep easier, faster, and for a more extended period.[9]

  • Offer them a nutritious snack.
  • Bathe them.
  • Brush their teeth and go to the bathroom.
  • Read them a story.
  • Sing them a song.
  • Cuddle or massage them.
  • Talk about the day.

For best results, choose a handful of activities and do them in the same order each night. Dim the lights and keep activity minimal to help everyone slow down.

For Teens

They might fight the idea of getting more sleep, but teens will benefit from a routine, too. They’re usually capable of overseeing their bedtime, but a little structure and oversight can help them get the sleep they need. By implementing the following tips, your teen can get better rest.[10]

  • Avoid caffeine in the evening.
  • Limit screen time.
  • Avoid late-night binging.
  • Exercise, ideally sixty minutes a day.
  • Keep the bedroom dark, cool, and quiet.
  • Talk through problems.

Quality Sleep for a Healthy Life

Bedtimes for kids can be an enjoyable part of the day with proper sleep hygiene in place. Not only can it be quality time with your child, but it can also set them on the road to good health and high performance. By implementing these tips, you can ensure proper rest for the whole family and better bedtimes for kids.

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Featured photo credit: Igordoon Primus via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Medical News Today: Why Sleep Is Essential For Health
[2] Child Mind Institute: Teens And Sleep: The Cost Of Sleep Deprivation
[3] Depart of Health: Drowsy Driving Prevention, Teens Ages 16 To 19
[4] AAP publications: AAP Endorses New Recommendations On Sleep Times
[5] Journal of Excellence in Nursing Leadership: Sleep Deprivation In Children A Growing Public Health Concern
[6] Parenting Science: Gentle Infant Sleep Training
[7] BetterHealth: Solutions to sleep concerns (11) – babies 6 to 12 months
[8] Parenting Science: 15 Evidence-Based Baby Sleep Tips
[9] Sleep Foundation: Bedtime Routines For Children
[10] NHS: Sleep Tips For Teenagers

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