These days, it seems like we are busier than ever. Now that our oldest son is in middle school, he has gained more independence and is involved in more activities after school and in the evenings. While his involvement is great and we encourage him to pursue his interests, it is definitely more challenging to stay connected as a family.
Being involved in your child's day to day life is extremely important. It not only allows you to keep your bond as parent/child, it also alerts you to any changes in your child's mood or behavior, which can be signs of stresses, sickness, or mental health issues. So how do we stay connected and keep that relationship strong when we have so little time? Below are a few ideas that we try to incorporate into our lives to maintain and grow our connection with our children.
Family Game Night
My kids love playing board games. We try to make a point of having family game night at least twice a month. This is a great way to have fun together and teach the valuable skill of losing or winning gracefully. We never try to "let" them win & sometimes it isn't always fun when the kids lose - the pouty faces definitely make an appearance - but the more we play, the easier it is for the kids to lose gracefully and the more they learn about dealing with losing or failures in life. Teaching this now sets kids up for success because they learn that failure isn't the end of the world. It's just a chance to try again.
Watch a Funny Movie/Laugh Together
Sometimes we are all just too tired from a long week of work and school, and the only thing we really want to do is make some popcorn, sit on the couch, and watch a family movie. This is okay and a perfectly fine way to connect with your kids. Comedies are great because it gets everyone laughing and feeling good. Enjoying a laugh with your kids is one of the best things you can do for their development. Laughter bonds families, while making kids smarter, healthier, and more resilient. It increases endorphins, relieves stress, reduces anxiety, increases heart rate and improves blood pressure. Laughter even boosts the immune system and relieves pain.
Getting outside and enjoying the great outdoors is something most everyone loves. It simply makes people happy. Who doesn’t love breathing clean, fresh air, hearing the serene sounds of nature, and walking on a soft trail padded with pine needles? And who doesn’t need a break from technology – smartphones, computers, tablets, television, movies, internet, video games, and so on?
Living in Colorado makes enjoying the outdoors so easy! Even if we don't make the trek up to the mountains, Denver is full of parks and walking trails that we can enjoy every day. We try to go on hikes or walks with the kids as much as possible. There is usually some grumbling from the little one (he would rather stay home than go anywhere!), but if we include the dog on our outings, he usually gets pretty excited to venture out and is always happier once we do.
My kids also love Geocaching. Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location. We let the kids navigate using our phone or the geocache app and lead us on an adventure to find a hidden treasure (usually just a little trinket). Even if we don't end up finding the cache, the boys still have fun on the adventure!
Everyone in my family enjoys reading or hearing a story. Ever since we brought our first son home from the hospital, we have tried to read out loud to the children every night. Admittedly, we do miss some nights, but we really try to read something together as often as possible. Children learn new words and ideas, excitement and adventure, comfort and delight! Just listening to books, without knowing how to read themselves, children learn how to express themselves in words, how to think creatively and critically, how to ask questions and, children develop a longer attention span.
We even take books on our family vacations. Reading at night in the hotel helps the kids wind down after the fun adventures of the day and allows for sleep to come easier. We just finished reading The Wishing Spell, the first book in the Land of Stories collection and are moving onto Jingle by Gordan Korman (my kids love this series because it has a dog in it!).
Bake or Cook Together
Cooking with children when they are young offers an opportunity to communicate with them on a regular basis. Your time chatting and cooking in the kitchen together becomes even more important as they reach the adolescent and teenage years. It also gives them confidence. Kids thrive on feeling accomplished. Cooking is an ideal way to boost self-worth and teach responsibility.
Kids are much more likely to eat what they make. I don't know many parents out there who have worked so hard to make a beautiful meal for their family, only to hear complaints and grumbles about the meal. Cooking creates a sense of ownership. When kids help in the kitchen there are fewer meal-time battles and more willingness to try new foods.
During the holiday season, my kids each get to pick a dessert that they want to try and make. They get creative, do a lot of research, and are fully invested in the project all the way through. It is really fun to have them in the kitchen, although it can get pretty messy at times!
I hope this gives you some new ideas of ways to connect with your family. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Being a good parent is not easy. But keep in mind that your children are only kids for a very short time, and everything you say, do (or don’t do) can change who they are. So make your actions count!
Do you have another creative way to stay connected with your kids? I would love to hear from you!