As a parent (or carer), do you ever find that you are under constant demand to meet the needs of your children, but nevertheless, at the end of the day, you feel like you’ve not really spent much time connecting with them? Whether you are a working parent, or a stay-at-home parent – I believe we are all too quickly drawn in to doing all the ‘stuff’ that needs doing and we forget to slow down and ‘be’ in the moment with our children.
That is certainly how I often feel. I can get to the end of a day and feel like I’ve not stopped – be it ferrying children around to different activities or play-dates, sorting washing, food and dishwashers, helping with homework, toilet stops and general ‘where is my…?’ requests... and somewhere in that mix, getting my work done and having a cup of coffee.
And on days like that I always wonder how on earth I am supposed to find the time to play and connect with my children as well. I know how important it is (as we’ve seen over the last few posts) and I know how good it feels when I do manage to find the time, but it can be really, really hard, can’t it!?
So, I have put together a quick list of quick and easy (and free) things that you can do with your children regularly to fill their AND your need for connection.
I have tried and tested different things with my children to see what resonates most and makes them feel most appreciated and loved (based on the concept of Love Languages – a book written by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell, that was recommended to me by a friend a few years ago and that I’ve been reviewing). As we have seen, some things can mean more to one person – and make them feel really loved – than another. As parents, I believe it is our responsibility to show unconditional love in different ways every day, so that our children can fill their ‘love’ buckets up and feel connected to us.
There are hundreds of different ways to do this, and below I have put together a list of my favourite ways to connect with my children in under a minute, in 15 minutes or less and finally longer activities of 30 minutes or more.
Ways to connect with your child and show them your love – in under a minute.
Come up with a simple (or maybe slightly silly) way to say ‘hi’ or ‘goodnight’ with your child. This could be a type of ‘high five’ or ‘handshake’ or saying things like ‘Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite’. The aim is to put a little smile on their faces, make eye contact and share a little giggle with each other
Put a little note in their lunch box for them to read, with a special message from you. If your family is bi-lingual this could be in the non-English language – it is an opportunity for them to practice their reading and has an even more ‘special’ feel to it.
Alternatively you could also put a special treat in their lunchbox for them to find and then ask them about it when they come home after school (but make sure it is something that the school allows; often there is a no nuts/ chocolate policy…). Rather than asking outright, you could say something like, ‘’Did you notice something special today?’ and do this with a smile and a twinkle in your eye
Ask them about their day – but make sure you give them your full attention and really listen to their response. If they find it hard to share what they did, you could ask things like – what was the best question you asked today, or what was your favourite part today? Or what was the hardest thing you learnt today? Or who did you help today?
Tell them how much you appreciate them – be specific
Hang up a picture they have drawn for you in a prominent place – or give it pride of place on your desk
Tell them ‘I love you’ regularly
Have a picture of your children on your keychain – and then if other parents or friends ask you about it, talk about them positively, if possible while your child is listening
If your child gets something wrong – before you chastise them – let them know that you recognize their good intentions and then help them understand what they could have done better. My youngest spilt a huge amount of milk on the table the other day – and it took all my patience to focus on him just wanting to be independent and try pouring his own bowl of cereal and milk. Once I’d acknowledged that with him, he was able to explain what went wrong (‘I tried Mummy, but the bottle was wet and slipped out of my hand’) and how next time we can do it together.
Have little healthy snacks or treats in your bag that you can give them when they are in need of some energy or a boost
Ways to connect with your child and show them your love – in 5 – 15 minutes.
Play a game – any game they choose – whether this is a quick game of football, tickle fight, catch, dolls, or a board/ card game – give it a go for 10 – 15 minutes. Focusing completely on the game, with no phones, work or chores getting in the way.
At bedtime read them a story – let them pick the one or two stories that they want to read with you and then read these together. For children that are learning to read, you could share the reading – and let them read the tricky words they are currently learning at school (like ‘the’ or ‘I’). This will give them an added sense of achievement and pride and you can gauge how they are doing without having to nag.
At bedtime, snuggle with your child and ask them ‘What was your favourite part of the day?’ and ‘What didn’t you like so much about today?” Some evenings you may be amazed by what is troubling their little minds and it gives you an opportunity to just listen and then work through a solution with them. I always share what was good and not so good for me as well after they have shared their bit.
Sit and do some drawing together – or let them draw and you watch them with a nice cup of tea or coffee. No distractions allowed though!
Take some time to connect with your child straight after they get back from school. Recognise the slower pace that their lives go at and try to match that BEFORE you pick them up. Rather than rushing to the school or nursery gates, typing one final email as you go, give yourself the head space to ‘get in the child zone’. When I used to work in the City I was always amazed at how wonderful this felt when I took the time to do this – and how much easier the evenings would turn out. By slowing down before I picked them up, I would be able to see my child’s struggles, or tiredness, or hunger and get down to their level to help them regulate themselves rather than chastise or rush them (which would then result in an inevitable battle).
At mealtimes take the time to sit together at the table (rather than in front of the TV) to connect with each other. Teach your children to take turns speaking (harder said than done, I know!) and ask every member of the family what they were particularly grateful for or proud of that day.
Include your children in the daily chores – but give them something meaningful to do. When I was growing up, my Dad used to give me and my siblings our own ‘shopping list’ of things that we had to go and find in the shop and bring back. If you are nervous about your child venturing too far, give them something to go and get off the shelf in the aisle you are in – this will not only be fun and help you, it will also give them a sense of freedom (they get to pick which block of butter they get) and achievement (they are genuinely helping out with something meaningful)
Tell stories about you growing up, funny things that happened to you or your siblings and let your children do the same
Prepare a healthy snack or meal together – give them a job to do (like chopping an apple) and chat with them as you do; you can also let them be the ‘taster’ – and ask them what they think is missing in the sauce or meal that you are cooking (we’ve had some hilarious suggestions in our house!)
Put some loud music on and dance like nobody is watching (and giggle lots!)
Sit with your child and make a list of things they love doing (and then you can periodically do these – depending on what they are and how much time they take)
Ways to connect with your child and show them your love – in 30 minutes or more.
Rather than watching your own TV show, switch your show off and watch your child’s show with them instead (but put your phone out of reach)
Sit quietly with your child and read your book, while they read theirs
Have a movie night with your child
Camp out with your child in the garden
Get your children involved in planning a holiday – do some research together and get their input on what activities you all want to do as a family
Go on a family bike ride/ walk
Play in the park with them – but get involved rather than just watching them from afar
Take your child for a swim, for an ice cream, a meal or a shop – just the two of you
Help them with a project they have to complete, or a sport activity they need to learn – like a gymnastics routine, throwing and catching a ball, football practice
Take them with you to work one day – to show them what you do each day
Plan a day out with them
Make something together (like a bath bomb or bird feeder for example); you could also create an online photo album that you then get printed for them
I guess the bottom line is, now matter what you choose to do with your children, try and make sure you give them your undivided attention, make eye contact and be tactile! And as best as you can, slow down to their pace and put aside 10 minutes each day (or a couple of times a week) to consciously connect.
That’s all from me for today. I hope you have found this list helpful and you can print it and stick it on your fridge for when you need some inspiration to connect with your children in different ways.
One quote from the book The 5 Love Languages of Children has stayed with me and helps me remind myself of the importance to connect – even when all I want to do is relax or get on with the jobs or work that need doing:
‘Don’t be a victim of the urgent. In the long run, much of what seems so pressing right now, won’t even matter. What you do with your children will matter forever.’ (p.67)
Next week I’d like to explore the topic of time outs. Do you believe in them? Do you do them in your family? Do they work for you? Or do you think they are the wrong way to go about discipline? I’d love to hear your thoughts and continue the conversation in our Facebook group too. You can find the direct link to this – there is a blue link in the top right hand corner for you to join. (or search on FB under MMT Parenting Community)
Let me know your comments as we go too and do share any topic suggestions that you might have. Simply email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or respond to me on Instagram or FB at mummymadethis.
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