Dr. Harley Rotbart, author of No Regrets Parenting, reminds us that there are only a mere 940 Saturdays from your child’s birth day until the day he or she turns 18 years old. Nine hundred and forty. That’s it. The statistic is enough to make you start planning family outings and picnics from now until 2026.
But… I have a complaint. Nine hundred and forty days is not nearly enough to bond and create enough memories to last a lifetime. As parents, we are blessed with 6,570 days from birth until the age of 18, why not take advantage of each and every one of those days? Sure, the weekdays are busy, crazy, messy, and loud, but that’s no reason to relegate all the bonding to just Saturdays.
Here are seven ways to build stronger connections with your kids, even when you’re crazy busy:
Studies consistently show that reading to children promotes healthy brain development and improves literacy skills. Reading, however, can be as much of a bonding experience as a learning experience.
Try to carve out at least 10 minutes a day to read together. Even reading a short bedtime story can do wonders for reconnecting with your child during a busy workweek. Have a pre-teen or teen? Let them choose a chapter book and read it together, even if it’s just a few pages per night.
Connect at bedtime.
With babies and young toddlers, parents often fuss over finding the perfect bedtime routine to get baby to sleep, but bedtime is just as important for older children too. Bedtime is a great opportunity to reconnect with your kids, especially after a busy day.
As you tuck your child into bed, give him or her an extra hug or cuddle. Hum a lullaby that reminds your child of when he or she was a baby. Listen if your child has any last minute stories or questions.
It’s all too easy to rush bedtime in order to have a few minutes of peace to ourselves – believe me, I know. But some of the best moments of the day are hidden in the soft, sweet moments between awake and slumber.
Both parent-instincts and science tell us that loving touch is important. From building self-esteem and boosting brain development, gentle caressing or loving touches can also help build connections with our kids. Touch is extremely easy to sneak into busy schedules.
- Exchange a secret handshake as you pass each other in the hallway.
- A hug first thing in the morning, before departing each other, upon reuniting, before bed.
- A kiss on the forehead as you serve dinner
- Cuddling together on the couch as you unwind with a show at night (or… a book).
- A pat on the back for a job well done.
Turn dinner into a sacred family space
It’s easy to let technology sneak onto the family dinner table, but in an effort to fully focus on each other, make it a point to make dinner a tech-free zone. Instead, use the time to connect with each other.
Growing up, my parents started a tradition called “Best Thing, Worst Thing.” We would go around the table and say what the best and worst part of our day was. It’s truly amazing what we can learn about each other when we actively listen.
Play a game, even if it’s just for a few minutes
Between homework, extracurricular activities, and household responsibilities, fun activities like family game night sometimes get pushed to the back burner. But, there are ways to play games, even on the busiest of days.
One of the favorites in my house is called “I’m Thinking Of,” a spinoff of “I Spy” except the object doesn’t have to be physically present. We usually play this game while driving. It entertains the boys during the drive, but also gives us a chance to reconnect. Win, win!
Make eye contact
This might seem silly or obvious, but making eye contact with your child is the easiest way to reconnect when you’re short on time. Eye contact reinforces the idea that “I’m taking the time to really look at you.” Looking into each others eyes is a soulful way to communicate an I love you without speaking.
When my older son is in the midst of a meltdown and struggling to manage his emotions, I always remind him to look into my eyes. He usually does and when his bright eyes look into mine, we connect and he’s able to find peace.
Psychology Today reports that laughing with another person helps to form a strong connection because “laughter establishes – or restores – a positive emotional climate and a sense of connection between two people.” Even if you’re stressed from a day at work, or tired from a day of chores, fitting in a laugh is a good way to reconnect with your kids.
Tell a funny story while you wash dinner dishes. Make silly faces at each other. Tell your kids a family inside joke.
Not every day is perfect. Sometimes we let the stresses of the day rule us, but our children will appreciate our efforts to connect with them – whether they realize it yet or not. Try to incorporate these tips into your daily routines, and you’ll be sure to feel a stronger connection with your children.