Finding the time to connect with the kids can feel daunting. But if I can do it, any parent can. Here are my best tips to help you bond with your kids too.
I am the mother of three children, ages four to 16 years old. I run my own business and my husband works away on a 10/4 roster. I have become a master blender; that means knowing what activities I can ‘blend’ to make sure that everyone’s needs and wants are met.
I have also become very aware of what situations and tasks could not be blended, as they needed my full attention. I then created a very flexible routine around this. It seems to work most of the time. As my children grow, I change where required to fit with their needs and values at their current age stage.
I will outline different blending activities that help me connect with the kids, as well as what I have found are full-focus times. I will also attempt to age group, as there are different needs at different ages.
1. Baking together
This age group loves standing on a chair, watching, stirring and touching. Give them their own bowl and let them go for it. They may make a bit of mess, however you have got your kitchen tasks done and had a chat along the way.
2. Walking together
Either pram-ing it or on their little bikes is a great way to get out, get exercise and talk about bugs, butterflies, birds and trees.
3. Get together with friends at the park.
Big people and little people combination time! This is a good one when you have gaps in ages with your kids. Even tweens find fun things to do at the park.
4. Reading a book
Don’t forget all important tickle time and share laughing. Kids of all ages love being read to. As the kids get older, they can also read the book to you.
Tips to help: 5 ways to turn your reluctant reader into a bookworm
5. Cleaning together
From about three, let them help you clean. Give them their own cloth and/or bucket of plain water and guide them through the task. It’s a great way to connect with the kids and get the housework done at the same time. Result!
6. Sing and dance together
Cultures have grown old together dancing and singing the days away. What a great way to spend time together as a family.
Connect with the kids: Activities for primary school ages
7. Cooking dinner together
Both my older children can make a couple of main meals. Very helpful on ‘make your own dinner’ night! Some of our best conversations have happened while we keep busy together.
8. Revive your ball skills
Get out and kick a ball or play catch. Great for developing their skills and revisiting yours, and lots of laughing.
9. Watch them at training
When at sporting practice, catch up with new and old friends, take a book you have been meaning to read or listen to your iPod. Remember to be watching them too! They will love to see you there.
10. Primp and preen
For girls brush their hair and style it, play make up and swap foot massages. Many boys love these sorts of activities too. Everyone loves a head massage, right?
11. Draw together
Draw monsters and aliens, or dream castles, or design the ultimate playground together.
12. Play video games
It might not quite be your thing, but a a video game occasionally for the sake of getting to know what your child is into is a great way to help you connect with the kids, where they are.
13. Old-school games
Play cards and board games that are simple and made for their age. It can be a quick game or longer. The point is to learn, laugh and connect.
14. Read side-by-side
Have a time each week where you all lay out on your bed or a mat and read. Each one of you has your own book, it is just quiet time spent together.
15. Watch movies
Whatever is age appropriate, and really try (or pretend) to enjoy them! Bring out the popcorn, blankets and turn the lights out.
Connect with the kids: Activities for high school ages
16. Afternoon tea
Afternoon snacks around the bench is a great time to chat about their day. They probably won’t move while food is there, so you’ll have their attention.
17. Dinner and a movie
Classic date combo, but with your kids instead of your partner. Take them to movies they want to see, and make it special by going to a ‘grown’ people’s dinner place; rather than McDonalds.
18. Play cards and board games
It can be a quick game or longer. The point is to learn, laugh and connect.
Fun games here: The Top 25 Board Games for Upper Primary Children
19. Just be there
The most important thing is to be there for your tween and teen. Be present. Talk to them about you and your day. Don’t expect lots of conversation, however be open for it.
20. Window (or for real) shopping
Especially for girls! Although many boys love an amble around the shops as much as any tween or teen girl. You can decide before you go what the budget it. Window shopping can be very tempting, and kids are very persuasive, so be aware that you might not get away with a $0 trip.
21. Extreme days out
Try rock climbing, abseiling, swimming at a waterhole, or something in your area that is different. Their curiosity will get them wanting to join you and join in.
22. Work side-by-side
Have two computers in your home office/work area. When you have to work or check emails or the like, the kids can be there with you. They may share what they are doing, ask for help with homework or talk about music they like. This way, you can connect with the kids and still get your stuff done too.
23. Be the taxi driver
Offer to do pick ups and drop offs to their ‘goings on’. Allow it to fit into your schedule as much as possible. It is the perfect time to be in touch with what they are up to, meet the friends, chat in the car (they can’t get out) and show your support to their world.
With all my children I make time each day with each one (sometimes only a few minutes). I clear my mind and am completely focused on them and what they would like to talk about. This may need encouragement, however they know in that moment I am just with them, for them, in a way that is meaningful for them. I am all ears, eyes and heart. This is the time I enjoy the most.
What’s your favourite way to connect with the kids?
Kirsty O’Callaghan is a family and relationships Expert and has been professionally involved in the business of inspiring and guiding others to live more positively, less stressfully and with more health and happiness for well over a decade. Kirsty has an amazing passion, a never give up attitude, and enthusiasm for everything she does and is well positioned to share with your her knowledge, experience and expertise.