It’s no secret that life is busy. Parenting is a full-time job and it’s not your only responsibility so your time is definitely in demand. If you feel like your child sometimes gets the short end of the stick when it comes to receiving your positive attention (because let’s be honest, 15 reminders to put dishes in the sink or turn bedroom lights off probably doesn’t count as warm-and-fuzzy parent-child contact), here are five simple ways to connect with your child. And, by simple I mean you don’t need to buy anything, plan anything, or spend a ton of time (that you might not have today).
Screens are definitely a source of distraction for kids and parents. If you make a point to designate the dinner table a screen-free zone and make sure your son or daughter eats there, you’ll have more time to interact. Even if you’re not eating at the same time, try to find your way to the table and leave smartphones and tablets out of reach. If this is already part of your family’s routine, great. If not, don’t panic. Start small and aim for a few screen-free meals a week or begin with dinner and build from there. These don’t have to be mind-blowing conversations; just chatting with your child is plenty good enough.
Unplugged Car Rides
I know, again with the screens—because they are everywhere! Most kids and adults are plugged in to some sort of technology while in the car, so ditching the screens is something to try—possibly in moderation and probably not during a five hour road-trip to Grandmas. When you avoid phone calls and ask your kids to skip the iPad or DVD player, you’ll make space for conversation while you’re running errands or doing the million other things on your daily to-do list. This practice will definitely help you stay more connected with your child.
Lend Your Ear for 10 Minutes
This may sound super easy because ten minutes is really not that much time in the big picture. However, days are busy and when you’re running in five directions at once, every minute counts. Simply stated, kids crave undivided attention and it’s often hard to make that happen. Plus, you might be surprised by how many times you’re tempted to interrupt or offer your opinion to your child during the course of a conversation. Carving out a few minutes a day to really listen to your child’s ideas, gripes, and feelings without judging is a great way to stay connected.
As a parent you have a lot to keep track of. You have to keep your child safe, which from toddlers to teens sometimes feels like climbing an avalanche. Plus, there are veggies to be eaten (or groaned about), teeth to be brushed, homework to be done, rules to be followed, and the list goes on and on. Parenting requires you to be the heavy most of the time, but staying connected with your child is a heck of a lot easier if you find a way to lighten the mood on a regular basis. Personally, I try to keep the laughs going and get silly when my kids provide an opportunity knowing that we’ll get back to the routine in no time.
Say Good Morning & Goodnight
Depending on how old your child is this may be a no-brainer. In fact, when my kids were younger “goodnight” sometimes lasted hours and “good morning” started with a 2 a.m. co-sleeping session. But, as kids get older it’s easy to fall out of the habit of beginning and ending the day with a thoughtful moment of connection. If you’re out of the house before your child is awake or not home yet at bedtime, call to check in or leave a quick note. These simple acts send a clear message that your child is a priority and that you’re thinking of them no matter where you are.
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