Making time each day to squeeze in meaningful one-on-one time with each of your kids can be a challenge. Here are 8 easy ways to find small pockets of time to connect and make your kids feel loved each day, even when you’re busy and life is hectic. Making those connections with your kids each day strengthens your relationship and build upon the foundation of a positive home.
“You’re not the best Mommy anymore!” my son yelled at me in the parking lot as loud as he possibly could. Several people stopped and were watching me. I could feel my anger slowly building inside. I steadied myself and kept pushing the cart to the car.
“I’m not going to eat your lunch either! I only want pancakes and if you don’t make them, I’m not eating ever again!” Or so he thought, I said to myself.
I stopped the cart and opened the door for him to get in the car, loaded our bags, put the cart away, and paused to take a couple deep breaths in and out, in and out before I got into the car.
“I love you very much and it hurts my feelings when you say mean things to me like that.”
Those were the only words I said to him and the rest of the ride home was silent. I looked in the rearview mirror to gauge his reaction. His face looked like his heart was torn into little pieces and I briefly forgot the anger I felt at another one of his public outbursts.
My resolve to remain patient was worn microscopically thin these days. How we were parenting obviously wasn’t meeting his needs and I had poured through parenting books, gave better-constructed choices, we tried to be more flexible and empathetic but his behavior hadn’t shifted.
As it turns out, once he stopped acting out his feelings and told us what what going on inside, the storm clouds started to lift and the lightbulb moment hit me.
He was picking regular battles because he was acting out for attention. The only boy of three kids and living in the house of “she,” he was desperately seeking attention – of any kind – from his Mom and his Dad.
Simply put, he wasn’t getting the one-on-one time he needed to connect with his parents.
We have three children who are together most days except for a few hours several times a week. Having alone time with each of them is challenging but absolutely necessary to strengthening the parent-child relationship, building your child’s confidence, and creating a positive home life.
It’s easy to get caught up in the everyday of raising children, being adults and all the responsibilities we carry. Meal making, shopping, carpool, activities and running a home make for long days filled with the “to-do” items and not always with moments of emotional connection our children – and parents – both desperately need.
Often times it’s our kids who take a back seat to the everyday responsibilities but this is where we need to remember that the days are long and the years are short. We need to make meaningful connections with our kids each and every day to make them feel loved.
This season of parenting children will be over in the blink of an eye, I remind myself.
Yes, we still need to handle our parental responsibilities, but we can still make opportunities for connection with our kids with simple shifts of thinking and planning ahead. Quality time doesn’t need to involve babysitters or intricately planned outings; instead, find snipers of time during the day to have one-on-one time with each of your children.
Look for opportunities to talk or just sit together on the couch. Put down your phone and look at them when they excitedly tell you about their day. Show them they are important even on your busiest day.
Here are the 8 simple ways you can connect and make each of your kids feel loved every day.
RUN ERRANDS TOGETHER
Take one child with you when you run to the grocery store, the post office or to do an errand.
During the day this can be more difficult if your partner is at work or you’re working, but if you run errands in the evening when the other is home, take one and leave one (or two, three, and so on.) When my partner is at home, I’ll leave two of the kids with him and take one (or vice versa) to run an errand or to pick up dinner, etc.
The time in the car and at the store is nice to talk without interruption and I can include him in the shopping trip by asking for his/her opinion and help, which also makes him feel important.
CONNECT DURING YOUR BEDTIME ROUTINE
We have a set bedtime routine in our home, which means we each get time with each of our kids before they go to sleep.
Our one-year-old goes to bed one hour before the older kids so she and I read books and cuddle before her bedtime and my husband spends time with the older kids during this time. When it’s time for the twins to get ready, we are of the “divide and conquer” method
We each take a kid, get them in their pajamas, brush teeth, go potty and then read a book with them in their own rooms. We’ll tuck them into bed and have our own bedtime sayings that are special between each parent and child (one of our traditions we established when they were very young.)
After our “kid for the night” is in bed, we switch rooms and go spend a couple minutes with the other kid.
If my husband is working and I have all three kids at night by myself, I will put the baby to bed first while the other two play together and then I’ll get the other two ready for bed at the same time, we’ll read a book together and I still spend several minutes with each one separately in their own rooms talking about the day and connecting before the lights go off.
GO ON A WALK
While nighttime family walks are a big thing in our house because they’re a great way to wind down and keep the TV off, it’s also a great opportunity to get some quality time with just one of the kids.
Once in a while, if we notice signs that one of the kids needs some time away from the other ones, or has been acting out for attention in the wrong ways, we’ll grab the dogs and head out of the house while the other parent has the other kids.
Now that the kids are six and can help more in the kitchen, they often ask if they can be a part of preparing meals. This is great opportunity to connect.
I can use an extra hand stirring, mixing and setting the table while the other two play kids on their own or together. What’s great is that we’ve found that having three kids, sometimes the other two kids want their own special time together without the third, and this way we also avoid the odd man out feelings of rejection.
SPLIT PARENTING FOR THE NIGHT
After dinner is over, it’s not uncommon in our home that each parent takes one or two kids (while the other one or two is with the other parent) and spend time together in one part of the house, away from the other. Reading together, watching a show, playing a game or putting together puzzles on the floor for an hour before bed gives us ample quality one-on-one time.
Here are suggestions for screen-free activities alternatives for your kids before bedtime that don’t involve the TV or tablets.
TAKE TWO CARS TO GO TO ACTIVITIES
When the kids have activities like soccer or gymnastics we’ll drive two cars so that the kids can have time in the car alone with a parent on the way to and from the activity. Sometimes, my husband will meet us at the activity if it’s on his way home from work and then he’ll take my son or daughter home in his car so he can squeeze in alone time with them.
NAP & QUIET TIME
If you have children that are different ages and in various states of nap and no-napping, this can be a great opportunity to sneak in some time together.
For example, when our baby is napping, the other two kids have an hour of quiet time in their own rooms when they aren’t in school or on the weekends. I will make the effort to spend 10-20 minutes in each of their rooms to play with them separately on the floor. The are so excited that I’m not working and took the time to pop in their rooms to play with them for a little bit.
I completely understand that quiet time at your house can be reserved for your own “Mom or Dad Time” but if you spend 10 or 20-minutes with each kid, you will still leave time for yourself.
ANNUAL TRADITIONS & TRIPS
We have several annual weekend getaways and trips that we take and we put away our electronics, to-do lists and let go of work responsibilities to be able to focus on our family. With the extra time on trips to relax and actual experience restful “downtime,” this leaves plenty of opportunities to spend time together one-on-one with each of your children.
Here are 9 Traditions You Can Start With Your Family Today.
One Easy (& Long-Lasting) Way to Connect:
Start a Journal with Your Son or With Your Daughter and write notes, feelings, doodles and letters to each other. Write without judgement but with respect and encouragement, empathy and praise. Talking about feelings and divulging information can be a challenge but some kids – especially as they get older – do well with writing. This might be a huge game changer!
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