This week, author, blogger and parenting expert Sarah Hamaker shares with my readers how you can connect — and stay connected — with your kids. Read on for some great tips that can apply to not just your kids, but any relationship:
“When kids aren’t responding well to discipline or even conversation with us, it can be because we’ve lost the connection—that vital conduit in which we show them love, acceptance, honesty and kindness. Connection means more than occupying the same house.
When disconnect happens, negative emotions start swirling. We often see a frayed connection with our teenagers, sometimes because of the growing-up process, sometimes because we don’t pay as much attention to our teens as we should. But disconnections can happen with younger kids too, and often that manifests with the child not self-correcting when disciplined.
Here are some concrete ways to build—or rebuild—a solid connection with our kids, whether they’re toddlers, preschoolers, elementary school age, tweens or teens.
Find Common Ground. It’s equally important to find things that you and your child enjoy doing together. Sometimes, that means you suggest an activity, and other times, you follow your kid’s lead. This can take some effort on your part, as what you might think will work, won’t. I thought we might become a family that bikes together…until I realized that my carpel tunnel syndrome made gripping handlebars difficult. You might need to think outside the box to find that common ground, and not worry if it looks different from other families.
Be Present. No matter how we connect with our kids, we need to be present with them in the moment. It’s so important to set aside time for being with your child, without distractions (including phones or devices). Even five minutes of undivided attention can strengthen the parent-child bond.
One way our family incorporates that is asking each person a question related to our day at dinner every evening, such as
- What would you like to share about your day?
- What happened today that made you smile?
- Tell us two truths and a lie about your day. Then the rest of us guess which one wasn’t true.
- How did you make someone else smile today?
- What was challenging about your day?
Share What Excites Them. No matter the age, we all enjoy sharing with our loved ones what animates us. One mom said that when her kids were younger, that meant watching and playing Power Rangers or spending a few minutes jumping on the trampoline with them. She learned about Pokemon, marveled over school art projects, played board games and watched dance practices.
In order to make connections with your children, you must meet them where they are. Look at their lives, and find out what interests them. What do they enjoy doing? Who are their friends? Your children’s friends have a big influence on your own children’s behaviors, beliefs, and actions. Get to know your children’s friends.
Family Time. Doing things together as a family strengthens relationships. Eating a meal together can be one simple way to do this. My family also enjoys laying wreaths at a local cemetery each December for Wreaths Across America. Research shows that families who volunteer together start to form a deeper, common bond.
One-on-One Time. We often overlook one of the easiest ways to connect with our kids—spending time with them solo. This is especially important in a family with more than one child. You can make it as elaborate or as simple as you want. Overall, it’s better to have regular, one-on-one time with each of your children than it is to make every time together extra special.
Set a timer for 15 to 20 minutes, then tell your child it’s “special” time in which you’ll do whatever the child chooses. Don’t multitask or keep your phone on.
Technology Curfew. Technology distractions make it easy to ignore the ones right in front of you. Figuring out how to set boundaries around screen time in the home is key to keeping a tight connection with your spouse and your children.
Start by banning cell phones during the evening meal. Follow that with a set time each night that all electronics and personal devices will be turned off.
To cultivate a strong family, use these suggestions to solidify your connections with each other. Through family time, technology curfews, being fully present, finding common ground, spending individual time, listening more than talking, respecting our kids and their thoughts, sharing what interests them, and getting outdoors together, we can have a connection with our kids that will last.”
Sarah Hamaker loves connecting with parents! As a certified Leadership Parenting Coach™, a trained biblical coach with the National Center for Biblical Parenting and a mother of four, Sarah encourages and equips moms and dads. She blogs about parenting on her website, and on Some Assembly Required, her blog on Patheos. Her articles on parenting frequently appear in the Washington Post’s On Parenting blog. Her parenting podcast, “You’ve Got This,” debuted in October.
Ok, readers, which of Sarah’s suggestions will you try this week? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.