How many times, have you been to a restaurant and seen people, young and older, on their phones or other technology and not actively talking to each other? I have. All the time. The art of connecting and communicating is being forgotten and many parents at my workshops are concerned. It is a fact that these days many parents are both working longer hours, and as a result, younger and younger children are spending more and more time in front of screens. As a result of this, I have been asked many times by parents: What can I do to connect more often with my kids?
Below you will find some of the ways we connect in my family
on a daily basis as well as the benefits these ideas have for your child’s development.
1. Read to your child at bedtime or anytime! Even if your child is older, read to them, if they will let you. There are so many benefits in doing this. Firstly, intimacy. You have to lay close to each other which makes you feel closer emotionally. Secondly, reading together is a wonderful way to discuss the story. Ask your child what he/she thinks will happen next, how will the story end, and who is their favourite character. Thirdly, if your child is learning to read, looking at the words and hearing how they are strung together will aide in his/her ability to decipher words as they get older. And fourthly, reading together will help develop a love of reading for your child.
2. Board and Card Games! We play many board and card games in my home. Not only are they fun but your children will benefit in the following ways: board games encourage conversation and build listening skills, teach patience by waiting your turn, enhances executive functioning skills by having to comprehend the rules and then having to apply them. Executive function also includes the cognitive skills of learning to plan strategies and will allow your child to practice self-regulation. Best of all: board and card games bring everyone in the family together.
3. Daddy or Mommy Only Weekend. Since I am more at home with our son, my husband and my son go on one weekend trip a year. They plan it together and choose the destination. They have been to New York City, Detroit, Niagara Falls, Rochester and Vermont. It doesn’t have to be far but creating special memories with one parent creates closeness.
Don't have an entire weekend? Carve out time on a weekend to go to the park or walk to get ice cream. Remember if a child has all of your attention, he or she can’t help but feel close and you will too!
4. Take An Art or Music Class Together. If you want to introduce your young child to art and/or music, there are many opportunities in Toronto. My son did 3 years of Parent & Tot piano classes at the Royal Conservatory of Music and we have participated in parent and child classes at 4 Cats Art School.
5. Ask Questions! You’d be surprised what you can learn. Catch them playing with a toy and ask them if you can play. Why do they like this toy? Do their friends play with it? Ask them how it works and let them lead the conversation. Bath time in our house is also a wonderful opportunity to connect and talk.
Despite our active lifestyles, finding a way to be social is what all human beings thrive on. We are all social creatures despite our world becoming more and more technical. Feeling a sense of connection not only brings us closer but also fills our spirits with love and joy.