As parents, we like to think we’re doing what’s best for our children. Because we love them. We know them. We know ourselves. We are always trying to do what we can to demonstrate that in our own ways. A hard reality to swallow is that those actions are not always healthy or beneficial for them.
We can still learn and grow.
I know I certainly have.
Looking back now, I can identify times I fell short as a parent, even with my best intentions in mind. And even now.
Being a mom is never a walk in the park, for me, this was especially the case when they reached their preteen and teenager years. I found connecting to be even more difficult, and that our relationship had to constantly involve to stay strong.
That’s ok. We are meant to grow as parents just as our kids grow from tiny humans into grown-up humans. That’s the beautiful, messy, irreplaceable experience of parenthood.
These are a few habits I worked on with all of my children, especially as they grew, to help us stay connected.
1. Show warmth and affection, but be prepared to alter your approach.
Physical touch is important for good health, plus, I love my kids and my nature is to express affection. I LOVE to hug, kiss and cuddle my kids. It helps me feel connected to them, and most of the time they reciprocate that feeling.
But sometimes when our children reach adolescence, they become reluctant to hug us because it’s isn’t considered cool. Many teenagers learn to be more independent and start avoiding hugs and kisses. They’re growing up and figuring out how to express themselves, set boundaries and feel connected, that’s ok.
In other cases, some kids never have physical touch as their love language.
My two sons were just as physically affectionate as me, and they loved a good snuggle. But my youngest daughter had more of a reserved personality from the start. She would never be willing to hug first, although she never refused the ones she would get. She preferred affection in other ways, like spending time together and just being there. That’s ok too, affection and love can be expressed in many ways. Don’t give up on affection with your children if it differs from your primary style.
In our family, most of the time we never part without a hug and kiss goodbye. Maybe that works for your family, maybe it doesn’t. As long as you find out the way everyone gives and receives affection, you’ll find a strong connection that stands the test of time.
2. Turn off the devices for quality time.
Life is busy, I totally get that.
But undivided attention and quality time is so important to feeling a strong relationship with your kids, and to their feeling like they’re important and loved.
As a young mom, I wanted more than anything to be able to devote all my time and energy to my children. But I still had to work. My job and busy schedule required me to check the phone or laptop now and again.
What helped me was trying to designate time for work while they were also working on homework or another activity. The boundaries and routine of that helped me to feel like I could focus on work when I needed to, and fully focus on time with my kids when I was off.
And when it came down to it, I would turn off the phone if they needed me. Especially if they came to me with some problem, worries or simply sharing fun news. Just being there, with undivided attention, makes all the difference for kids feeling like they are seen, understood and matter most to you!
Listening is seriously underestimated, especially when it comes to your kids. Listening not only means hearing what our children say, listening means understanding and being sensitive to what our kiddos are really saying. I always try to consider everything my kids are saying and paying attention to the words and stories they are sharing with you.
When children make mistakes, many parents are quick to react with negative emotions. However, one important skill to develop is listening FIRST, and then reacting. It helps us better put ourselves in our children’s position to understand what they’re going through. We have all been children once and we all make mistakes. We have also all been kids, made a mistake, and been worried our parents wouldn’t hear us out.
I remember my own childhood and the lively little kid I was. I wasn’t mean or rude to others, but I would somehow always find myself in trouble, and wondering if my parents would understand the circumstance.
This helped me be more gentle when my children were being disruptive. Instead of yelling at them (something I’m very much against), I try to listen to them completely before assessing the root of the situation. By showing them that I’m not angry, they felt more comfortable expressing what was truly bothering them. As you listen and understand, trust will develop.
4. Share meals together.
Making an effort to eat together at a certain time of the day is so important. It gives you the opportunity to pause on the craziness of the day for good food and good company.
I also love to cook for my kids and have always made our family’s health a priority. I’m a big fan of everything from daily exercise activities to kid gummy vitamins to seeking out new recipes for healthy dinners.
Dinner time is a good opportunity to catch up on things that happened in their day so we don’t get lost in our children’s lives. For me and my kiddos this is time to update each other about recent changes in our lives and why not throw a joke here and there and keep the atmosphere light. This can be my favorite part of the day.
I know life gets BUSY. But try to budget for this if you can. Even if dinner has to become a Saturday late morning brunch. Get that time together to keep in tune with each other’s lives.
5. Spend one-on-one time with each of your kids, doing something they love.
As parents, we have a lot of responsibilities and they stack up on our plate.
There were times in my life that things were busy at work and I had extra family responsibilities, yet individual time with my kiddos still had to be a number one priority.
I had to remind myself to preserve quality time both as a family and also one-on-one.
We try to find common interests like painting, cooking, or even just watching our favorite series. Sometimes running together, gardening, working out with our gym equipment, or simply watching a movie together helped to strengthen our bond as a family.
But I’d also specifically schedule some time to spend one-on-one with each of my kids doing things they enjoyed individually. Sometimes the whole family doesn’t love the same sports, games, music or movies. That’s ok! What you don’t want to happen is to have one of your kids get lost in the collective shuffle and feel like no one relates to or is interested in what they like. Maybe they love comic books instead of football games. Or dance class instead of jogging. Or painting, video games or art.
Whatever it is, try to participate with them! Show them their interests and personalities matter
One-on-one time helps with this, and also gives your kids the confidence to start championing their own individuality and uniqueness in a way that feels natural and special–with you!
The habits you foster with your children will have a great influence on your relationship with your kid. These five have truly helped in nurturing my relationship with my kiddos and I hope they can with yours too!