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In today’s busy and distracted world, it becomes increasingly harder to spend quality, one-on-one time with our children.
It’s not that kids need less time with us because they have a lot of fun activities to keep them busy instead.
It’s not even so much all the extracurricular activities, friends or work, though those certainly add to the problem.
It’s more about parents not putting enough emphasis on their own importance in their kid’s life or they don’t have enough simple, practical ways to connect with them.
There has never been a parent who regretted trying to spend time with their kids and wanting to get close to them.
However, there definitely have been many parents who felt like they failed at it and gave up because the kids just didn’t seem to enjoy the company.
Kids aren’t mature enough to appreciate the benefits of a strong parent-child relationship. They don’t have enough perspective to realize that adult influence is healthier than peer imitation.
I am convinced that spending time with our kids is our job to initiate and we have to keep trying.
Reconnecting with our children is crucial not because they will always think they need it or want it. It’s because we know they need it and we know we want to be part of their life.
It is in our hands to make the parent-child relationship a priority and connect, even if we have to fight tooth and nail for it. (or fight phones and friends for it)
I don’t claim to know everything or that I do it right. Matter of fact, I am still very much a work in progress who fails and learns something new each day.
What I can bring to the table though, are things that worked for me in my last 10 years of parenting.
I can share with you what I have learned through successes and failures and by educating myself through books and expert advice.
I am a step parent, and these ideas definitely could work with stepchildren as well (as you will see below), but stepfamily relationships are a completely different dynamic, so you may have to proceed slowly.
Today, I want to provide you with fresh ideas on how to spend quality time with your children, so there’s never a time when you are unsure how to start.
Here are 10 simple ways to reconnect with your child(ren) that won’t take all day or require much money!
1. Quietly Get Into Their World
No matter what age, kids want to know you care about them and their “stuff”. They always look for ways to feel wanted, loved and valued.
This is actually a need in every human being, but children are especially vulnerable and their development depends on the adults’ feedback.
If you want to know more about your child in a non-invasive way, ask for permission to just sit/ lie next to him.
Chances are you will get the go ahead and that’s when your job starts:
Listen, watch, observe.
With little kids, it’s fun to notice the sweet faces they make when they concentrate on playing. Or maybe they will instantly want you to be involved and you can watch them explain all the rules and their thoughts.
Engage in some conversation, but let them take the lead. Ask questions about the game or toys so you can really hear what they are thinking.
With older kids, they may just sit quietly next to you and continue to do what they were doing. That’s ok, some kids need a little warm up.
Plus, there’s nothing wrong with letting them know that you just want to be close, next to them. It’s ok to just enjoy the fact that you are together.
Some kids may choose to show you the latest game they have been playing or the funny videos their friends sent them.
It doesn’t matter if you couldn’t care less about Minecraft or if the music they listen to drives you crazy.
They aren’t asking if you like the game or the song. They aren’t just simply telling you about their pony’s breakfast.
They are asking, do you like ME?
Do you care about what I think?
Do you see how I am growing and changing?
What do you think about my new self that’s forming, am I doing ok with it?
If you criticize or talk too much, they will clam up. They won’t feel like sharing and they will feel rejected.
If you constantly shut down the enthusiastic story about G.I. Joe and don’t usually listen to their made-up song, they will not want to tell you deeper secrets later on.
The exact opposite of what you want, right?
So just stay, and try for a few minutes to get into their world quietly and see where it takes you.
It does not have to be complicated.
2. Be Silly
Being silly for quality time? Absolutely.
Kids love laughter and are instantly attracted to anybody who is fun.
But you don’t feel fun after 8 hours of work, or being up all night with a baby.
It’s ok that you don’t feel like it because you can choose to be fun, and just start it.
What do you do when you want to get giggles from a little baby? Play peekaboo or hide your face and stick out your tongue.
Did you know that 6-year-olds will laugh at that just as much as 9-months-olds?
How about playing a super fun game that makes everybody roll with laughter?
In our house, it’s called the “kissing bird” game.
I play the big, scary (more like clumsy) mama bird who flies around, trying to catch the little chicks and kiss them. But the little chicks always outsmart the mama bird and run away giggling.
Sometimes I manage to catch one, put them in my imaginary nest to keep them captive and kiss the soft cheeks until they get loose again.
It’s great fun. My kids beg for it!
This is what Dr. Laura Markham at Aha Parenting says about playing silly games with kids:
…they giggle and sweat and scream — and they release the same pent-up stress hormones that they’d otherwise have to tantrum to discharge. Playing is also how kids learn, so when you “teach” an emotional lesson by playing, your child really gets it. Best of all, playing helps parents and kids feel closer.
She has some amazing ideas on playing with kids here, and she also explains the benefit of roughhousing here. Definitely check those out!
Older kids need a little bit different approach, though they also love to laugh and may even like being tickled or wrestling.
How about sitting down with a book that has kids jokes in it and laugh together with your pre-teen?
Or telling them some of the funny stuff they used to say as toddlers?
They may show you a hilarious video or a song that can get you both laughing.
Pillow fights, crazy loud dance parties or water gun fights will do the trick too!
There are no wrong ways to do it, but sometimes it’s just hard to get started.
Try one of these ideas and see how many more you will naturally come up with!
3. Cook Together
It doesn’t matter if it’s boxed cookies or a gourmet meal, just do it together.
My teenage stepdaughter loves to browse Pinterest for recipes.
I ask her to text me the links to recipes she wants to try and I choose one I am willing to spend time on. (she doesn’t quite know that not everything that looks good on Pinterest works out in real life).
After we agreed on the recipe, I send the little ones upstairs with daddy, and she and I work in the kitchen.
This homemade Oreo ice cream recipe is one we recently tried, and everybody loved it.
Another idea is to make breakfast together.
He can pour in the milk or stir the dry ingredients or cut out the biscuits.
Most of all though, we are together while we create, so there is time for kind words, kisses and hugs.
If you only have Saturday mornings, just do it then.
If you can only cook from a box mix instead of scratch, choose a box mix and get to work!
It doesn’t have to be long, and it doesn’t have to be magical. Don’t let the desire for perfection stop you from simple joys.
Get started, dive in with whatever you have and however long you have.
The most important is the relationship, not how the cookies turn out.
I also learned that this time certainly shouldn’t be a time to criticize and fuss.
Who cares if she measures out the ingredients too slowly?
What if he makes a mess?
Take a deep breath and remind yourself that nothing on Earth matters as much as your child feeling loved by you.
I know I can always apologize when I mess up with them in the kitchen. And that makes me willing to do it again, even when I end up frustrated after cooking together.
But if I give up, I would never have those sweet moments when everything works out just right and I have deeply reconnected with my child through it.
4. Read And Cuddle
This may be one of the most overlooked ways to spend quality time with kids.
I think sharing amazing stories are enriching not just for the relationship itself but also for the mind.
In a Washington Post article a pediatrician, Pamela High says:
Reading to children and with children is a very joyous event and a way of fostering a relationship, as well as [helping] language development…
Do I need to reiterate how beneficial reading to kids is?
Being picky about what to read though, is just as important.
A good book should be engaging to grown up and child alike. A classic story always teaches something or challenges us to better ourselves or just simply makes us feel happy.
I learned a ton from Gladys Hunt’s book, Honey For a Child’s Heart.
She explains what type of books are worth reading and how to truly turn reading into a pleasurable activity for mind and soul.
My favorite is that she has pages and pages of book recommendations for ALL ages.
Another great resource, Sarah Mackenzie’s blog, that is chockfull of recommendations and info on reading for and with kids.
5. Color/Draw Together
Recently, adult coloring books became super popular and you can get one pretty much every corner.
There are certainly benefits to coloring, one of them is to bring calm and mindfulness into one’s life. Therapists recommend adult coloring for slowing down and emptying the mind of worries and stressful thoughts for a while.
Why couldn’t coloring also serve as quality time with your budding artist?
My daughter is an introvert and she loves to just color with me and listen to music or stories. Most often, we just color quietly and she usually starts to talk, share worries and ask questions.
We love to reconnect that way.
If you’d rather draw, it is just as great! (unfortunately, I can’t really help you there with ideas, because I am very challenged when it comes to drawing).
We have colored from Dora coloring books to Paw Patrol ones on to more detailed adult versions, and every single one achieved the same goal: spend quality time together.
In our house, we love gel pens for coloring much more than colored pencils.
6. Go Out On A Date
I am sure you see this recommended a lot, as I do, but what gets me is that I don’t always want to spend a ton of money.
Sure, going shopping in the mall or having a day at a waterpark is awesome, but I will not be able to do it on a mundane Monday when I desperately feel the need to spend some time with an out-of-sorts kid!
What could be done instead?
Cheap ice cream cones at a drive through, finishing them on a park bench…
Getting groceries together…
Taking dinner to the backyard and eating it as a picnic, just the two of us…
Getting a slushy at a gas station and drinking it while taking a walk…
Swinging at a playground…
Playing a board game/cards somewhere other than home…
And if you do have the time and resources for an old-fashioned date, the sky is the limit!
A child will always feel special when given one-on-one attention by the most influential adults in her life!
7. Ask The Right Questions
I would like my kids to always be able to talk to me, but I don’t always know how to exactly initiate it.
One way to get closer is to be always honest and open about yourself and share some stuff with them that lets them know you would understand.
Like when you lied to your mom about breaking that china.
Or your first breakup.
Kids need to feel like they can relate to you, that you are the same fragile human being as them.
Another way to connect is to ask the right questions.
Sometimes, you need to patiently ask the right questions so you could really hear the raw answers.
Kind of like using the right tool for the right job.
Young kids aren’t at the point where they will have in-depth conversations too often, and many teens are too cool to tell mom how they are really doing.
I found something super helpful during a time when my kids didn’t exchange their toy for an ice cream at a Chick-Fil-A.
In their bags, they received the travel version of Table Topics. I have seen these cards before, but without ever trying them, I thought they were overpriced.
We have loved our Chick-Fil-A versions ever since though. The kids beg for it at the dinner table and the questions are just as good for one-on-one conversations as for groups.
Club31 Women shared an article on what questions to ask your daughter to feel closer. (I am assuming you could ask these from boys too, but they may be less likely to chat.)
I definitely plan on using these with my teenage stepdaughter, in the near future.
And don’t for a minute believe that kids don’t want you to ask questions.
Everybody likes talking about themselves, even if they need a little encouragement at first.
How else would you know what’s they struggle with, what makes them happy or how they think?
8. Cherish Bedtime
The end of the day tends to be the part where what I want has to do with quiet, alone and sleep, and not chasing, bringing cups of water or explain every possible question a kid can ask.
In all seriousness, over the years I learned to cherish bedtime.
To children, it is the time of day where they slow down, become small again and open up their world without distractions.
They become vulnerable and honest, even the toughest of boys shrink to a little boy in the quiet darkness.
I like to make it safe for them to share and ponder.
Sure, there need to be limits on time and they shouldn’t take advantage of the situation to stay up late. But more often than not, through talking they truly just want to transfer the day’s worth of happenings so they can rest.
Why not play a short game for example? In our house, we make the kids into a taco, or a pancake or pizza.
They giggle and get into a good mood without being too rowdy.
Or, after the lights are off, I give them choices between two things and they tell me which one they would prefer. “Would you choose nuggets or hamburger? Pool or Lake? Car or Truck?”
It’s a simple game but they love it and I also learn more about them.
You can also ask them what the favorite part of their day was, and what was a bad part of that day. It’s interesting to hear that often they don’t remember the bad stuff. But if they had something that bothered them, it’s a good time to discuss it.
At bedtime, you will also get the sweetest hugs and kisses. (because let’s be honest, they don’t want you to leave).
I lie down with my little kids almost every single night. If I don’t, then my husband does. And no, I don’t regret it one bit.
Is it sometimes tiring? Do I, at times wish I could just quickly be done and be alone? Sure.
But I remind myself how fast time goes and how much quality time I am able to enjoy when I cherish bedtime. I would not trade it for the world.
I am not saying you have to do what we do.
What I am saying is find your way to cherish bedtime. Find something that makes it special and you will be able to use that to reconnect with your kids.
9. Play Games
Card games or board games are an excellent way to actively spend time with your child while letting the natural flow of the game dictate the fun.
There’s not much need for deep conversation. It’s just for pure fun.
When my son first started playing checkers, he would make up his own rules, somewhat based on the real ones, and explained to me in detail how it all worked.
The rules changed every minute and they always evolved in a way that made him the winner. I sat back and enjoyed it. Slowly he learned how to play and he even beats me!
There are so many games that also teach valuable skills, such as counting, fine motor skills, letters, strategic thinking and so on. Just like with reading, you can kill two birds with one stone.
Check out this post for recommendations on popular board games.
10. Let Them Choose
I bet your kids can come up with endless ideas of their own if you asked how they wanted to spend time with you.
Letting children take the lead can be beneficial in several ways:
They can feel in charge..
They can feel proud of themselves for coming up with a great idea…
They can feel like an equal partner who’s opinions matter…
You can get to know their interests better…
You can sit back and take a break from decision making…
Sounds pretty good to me!
I like to call focused quality time as mama-child’s name time. (for example, if you have a son named Peter, you could call this time Mama-Peter time)
This lets my kids know that they are the one and only in that moment.
They don’t have to share me and I will pay all my attention to them.
I can barely describe the sparks in their eyes when they hear that.
While I believe that it is our responsibility as parents to initiate quality time together, it sure feels great when your child plans it all out from time to time.
If you haven’t yet, start regularly adding simple ways to spend quality time with your child! I promise you will never look back.
Share with me in the comments, how do you reconnect with your child?
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