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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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