When my kids were younger finding ways to connect with them was difficult. Here’s a few things we did and we wish we would have done more.
- Board games- Be sure to let your kids choose and lead on this. I love word games and strategy games but my kids weren’t into them so I intentionally let them take the lead. I have played more Sorry than I would wish on my worst enemy but some of the best memories with my son are when he sent me home with a dimple and an apology.
- Picnics – something about changing the setting of your meals makes it easier to connect and takes away the stress and tension that may be hanging out at your living quarters. When you are sitting in the grass or you have sand at your toes it is harder to get in an argument about a messy room at home. (You can still do it, of course, it is just a little more difficult.)
- Video games – I am not a gamer. I just quite get into it. But after I read the book SuperBetter by Jane McDonnell I had a new respect for the digital game world. We spent hours as a family playing different games but we were intentional about the time. I always asked what my kids learned from it and we set time limits; we weren’t playing until all hours of the night or taking fake sick days at work.
- Car rides – Studies show that conversations just go better when you are in a car. This is especially true for tough subjects. Neither of you can escape but you aren’t looking right at each other so it is easier to be honest, apparently. For the cost of gas, go for a quick tour of the neighborhood or better yet plan a bit of a getaway. Use the time to bring up some tough topics with a balance of fun times and singing together or telling stories. Look for another post about games to play in the car.
- Family Meetings – Don’t be rigid with this. Let it evolve. Try different elements and again, be sure to let your kids be involved. Taking a few minutes each week (ish) to get on the same page can save so much stress. Different agenda items for us were looking at the upcoming calendar; bringing up blessings from the week; complimenting each other; giving menu suggestions; planning family vacations; and chore schedules.
All of these ideas aren’t new and search the web for even more ideas and ways to individualize these. Most importantly reach out to the parents with older children in your life and ask them what they have done or what they would have done differently. There are so many great methods out there. Keep searching until you find the one that is right for you.