When I was a kid, we had family dinners every night. My dad was a successful dentist and my mom was a lawyer/politician, so they were busy. And my sisters and I were busy with all sorts of activities like choir, student council, musicals and more. But somehow, I always felt connected to my parents. Despite the fact that they were both successful in their chosen careers, they always talked to us. They always knew what was going on in our lives. And I felt like I could talk to them about anything.
These days, things seem to be different. And I'm not sure what happened, but it seems like most families' way of life today doesn't focus on keeping the parent/child connection close. We could blame it on technology or a highly competitive culture (thus, the need to have your child in 10 different activities and be the best at all of them). Whatever the reason, just because most of our society is becoming more and more disconnected, that doesn't mean you have to sacrifice that closeness with your children. Being a single mom of two boys, I know all too well the importance of building and keeping a strong connection with your children.
So, here are five simple ways you can stay connected to your children:
1. Ask them questions about their life.
I know that sounds like an obvious thing to do, but I can't tell you how many parents don't do that! For example, I know someone who has no clue if her teenage son is dating anyone or not. That blows my mind. I'm not judging the people who are unaware of their children's lives, because it might not even occur to them that they should be asking questions. But knowing information about what's going on in your kids' lives will lead you to a situation I just encountered the other day. My 14 year-old son came to me for advice about how to tell a girl (who is a friend of his) that he likes her. To me, that is so much more satisfying than not knowing what's going on. Plus, asking questions of your kids sends the message that "I love you enough to want to know what is going on with you."
2. Hug, touch or sit near them.
Humans need touch. In fact, many scientific studies have proven this to be true! The results of the research say that touch can increase trust, decrease violence, strengthen the immune system and increase overall well-being. This might be difficult for some people, especially if they grew up in a family that didn't exhibit touching behavior such as hugs or kisses. My family is one in which we took it seriously. We always hug and kiss on the cheek when we say hello or good-bye. Some people might find it odd, but I love it. So if you're a parent who doesn't ever hug your child, try doing it. It may be uncomfortable at first, but it's worth it. And if you already do it, try doing it more often.
3. Figure out what they like and learn about it.
Does your child like skateboarding? Playing with the Rubik's cube? Creating art? Every kid has their own "thing" that they are passionate about. So take some time to learn about it so you can share in their joy! Here's one example. My sister's son is a huge car fanatic. She, on the other hand, couldn't care less about them. So in order to stay connected to him, she decided to do some research on the fastest cars in the world, so she could have a quality conversation with him. Not only did that give her material for her to feel close to him, it also sent the message that she cares enough to learn about what he's interested in. Sometimes, it's these subtle messages that mean the most.
4. Have "technology-free" times and places.
Have you ever been out to a restaurant and looked around at the other people? If not, you should. Typically what you will see is people looking at their phones and not talking to each other. It's bad enough when it's just two people sitting there, but when I see families doing that, it makes me sad. Technology as almost a replacement for human interaction these days. And don't forget - as a parent, you model the behavior that your child will probably adopt later in life. So if you are constantly on your phone or computer, then you may as well not even be there. Sure, you're "there" physically, but not emotionally and mentally. And that's what really counts.
5. Play and do activities with them.
Not everyone is a good "talker." In other words, some people prefer to be doing activities, instead of talking. So if you are like that (and even if you're not), then why not try engaging in more activities with your child and as a family? You can play cards or cool new games, go for a walk, play basketball, or pretty much anything else that you and your child find enjoyable. It doesn't matter what it is. The point is to spend T-I-M-E with your child. Because that's how children spell L-O-V-E.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Being a good parent is not easy. But keep in mind that your children are only kids for a very short time, and everything you say, do (or don't do) can change who they are. So make your actions count!