I recently went through a period where I was having some health problems. I was in pain a lot of the time and a many things fell by the wayside as I spent most of my time in bed, not the least of which was playing and doing activities with Kay.
Fortunately we have a large family who are always there for her; her father and grandparents especially made sure she never lacked for attention (as they always do!) but I was distracted and disconnected and I knew it.
About the same time she started to have some behavior issues. She wasn't doing well in school, which has always been a problem area for her anyway. She was hyper and going a mile-a-minute and not listening AT ALL. For lack of a better way to put it - she was just obnoxious. I hate to say it, but I actually dreaded being around her.
It took way to long for it to occur to me that maybe these two things happening simultaneously weren't just a coincidence. Maybe my not spending time with her like I'd always done was having a dramatic affect on how she acted.
I started making a deliberate effort to change that. We'd play a card game when she got home from school (Why do I always get that Old Maid card?!) or maybe a board game. Sometimes it was as simple as I would sit in the chair while she played with her Little Ponies on the floor. It was maybe 15 minutes a day at first - and I saw the difference immediately.
Within a week she was like a different kid.
I'd always known connecting with our children is important. As Sharon Harding's book "Unplug" quotes Brené Brown as saying, “We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick.” But I'd never seen the evidence in action as much as I did during this time.
Which brings up a great question - how can we make time to connect with our kids among all the other things we have going on. Day to day life doesn't always leave an easy opportunity for catching up on "together time". But it doesn't need to be difficult, or even take a lot of time.
Whether you're hesitant to add something extra to your day or you just don't have the energy for something more, these ideas are quick, easy and most are perfect for times you just need to sit!
- Take it outside. A wonderful hike in a nature reserve would be my idea of a perfect walk, but a stroll around a city block works just as well. It's good to get moving, enjoy some fresh air, and just be together.
- Play with your food - just this once. Mashed potato sculptures? Hot dog dogs with toothpick legs? Go for it!
- Card games are quick, don't require any set-up and are great for multiple ages playing together.
- Get silly. This one will look different depending on you and your child's personality. Put a box on your head, talk like robots, make up inane rhymes, try to make each other laugh with your best jokes. One day I did this random thing when I was bring Kay her lunch where I did my best Igor impression from the Frankenstein movies. She, of course, had no clue who Igor or Frankenstein was but she loved my, "Yes, Master", as a shuffled around the kitchen. (Can't believe I just shared that in a public forum...)
- Listen - really. No trying to secretly answer a text message or sneak a peek at the computer screen. When your child comes to you with a "Guess what? Guess what?!" tune in and really give him your full attention. Sure, you might be regaled with a play-by-play of recess or the newest (and completely senseless) knock-knock joke he's heard. But your complete attention will mean the world, even if it's just for a few minutes.
- Cuddle. Maybe first thing in the morning, or right before bed, or any random time during the day. Just snuggle up and enjoy being together. Ask what made her happy today or about why he likes that Ninja Turtle...or just be there - no distractions.
- Being a reader, I of course love when Kay and I read together. Snuggling up with a good (and usually silly) book at bedtime is the perfect culmination of any day. But she's just as likely to ask for a story during the day, probably because she knows it's one of the few things I nearly always say "of course" to!
- Give an unexpected hi-five. Bonus points if you add a sincere compliment. "I love how hard you worked on that ________" or "Thank you for helping fold and sort the laundry for me." (That last one might be wishful thinking, but you get the idea!)
What's your favorite way to connect with your kids?
First image, "Card game" by Valentina Sorti