Ever feel like you’re constantly with your kids, but are never actually connecting with them?
I started to feel that way a few months ago. I would be cleaning the house, working on a project, paying the bills, everything but actually playing WITH my kids. It’s easy to say you’re “multi-tasking” but the truth was I was doing everything but actually being present with my boys. I wanted to find some ways to purposefully and meaningfully connect with them.
I realized that connecting with my kids wasn’t something that came easily to me when I was in my house – especially in my kitchen, where it feels like a million other tasks need to be done. So I started to think about when and where to connect with each of my boys (Shep, 2, Beau, 1). Here are some tips I found that actually make it possible to bond with them in a way that I’m proud of.
1 / Try a new activity. We started swim lessons for Shep at Goldfish Swim School several months ago and it’s one of my favorite ways to connect with him — and my husband can do it too because we scheduled Shep’s lessons for the weekend. Here’s how: While he’s old enough now that we aren’t in the pool with him, we booked it during a time so that either my husband or myself take him. That means Shep gets valuable one-on-one time with one of us. On the way to Goldfish Swim School, we talk about what he did great the week before and what he should think about for this week (right now it’s all about getting his head under the water!) We talk about how astronauts learn to swim under the water and how it’s his first step to becoming one too (his biggest dream!) During the lessons, I pay close attention to what I see him doing well and what he may be struggling with. At the end of the swim lessons I make sure to give him a big hug and tell him how proud I am of him. You can see his eyes light up with the sense of accomplishment in learning something new and sharing the moment with one of his parents.
2 / Ban the iPad in the car. Stick with me here. I know — parents everywhere are throwing their coffee at the screen. We are the furthest thing from screen-free, but I’m all about balance and for us that means dropping car-time viewing. The second we stopped giving Shep either phones or iPads in the car (EXCEPT long trips), I found how valuable those 15 minutes were for our relationship, and Shep did better in the car behavior-wise than he did when he depended on a screen for entertainment. Now when we are in the car together, Shep talks to me about his day, his fears, what makes him excited, and it’s really important that he has my full attention (and vice versa). I hope this is something that translates as he gets older. It’s amazing how your kids can open up when they know the floor is theirs and there are little distractions around to compete.
3 / Do some activities solo. Instead of calling a friend and her kids to meet up with you for an activity, from time to time, go it alone. I love seeing my friends so much – the support and friendship is vital when you are in this season of motherhood. But I’ve also noticed when I plan an activity or playdate with a friend, I go from playing with my kids to watching my kids. When you are seeking meaningful, bonding time with your children, try going to an activity with just your kids and meet up with your friend the next time.
4 / Babywearing. I always loved wearing Beau and Shep up until about 8ish months, then it seemed like they just wanted to crawl around and not be cooped up. It bummed me out because I loved keeping them close while being able to walk around, run errands or clean the house. I read about the Tula Toddler Carrier but waited forever because I couldn’t justify the cost without knowing if Beau would actually like it. Well, I made the plunge and am so happy I did. After a couple months of not wearing Beau, I’m using it all the time for school dropoff with Shep, while at home when I need to clean or go between floors and when Shep wants to play outside and Beau needs to tag along. I love using the back carry the most, and it really comes in handy when Shep has gymnastics and I’m needing to also keep tabs on a FAST crawler! It says you can wear your toddler up to 60 lbs and 4 years plus, so my hope is Beau doesn’t mind if I want to keep wearing him for awhile!
What’s your favorite way to meaningfully connect with your kids?