parent connect with kids on park bench

12 Simple Ways To Connect With Your Kids

With any relationship, it takes effort to stay connected. With our children, there are often times where we are shuffling them from task to task without taking a moment to really connect with them.

Breakfast. Get dressed. Brush teeth. Head out the door. Don’t head out the door. Change clothes again. Park dates. School. Appointments. Several meals a day. Bathroom breaks. Bedtime routines. Self-care slipped in there somewhere hopefully maybe depending on if the toddler decided today was a nap or no nap day and whether said toddler would prefer to sleep on the parent the entire time lest they want to feel the irrational wrath of their not-fully-developed brains.

12 Simple Ways To Connect With Your Kids

1. Look at their eyes while they play.

This is an extremely simple, yet effective way to connect with your kids. When they are playing independently, just watch their eyes. Eventually, they will look up at you and see you watching them. I like this approach when my kids are going through a “mama, watch me!” phase. Because I’m meeting that need before it becomes a need.

2. Hug them until they pull away first.

Of course, hug with their permission. But a great way to connect with your child is to hug them, but let them initiate when to let go. So instead of them constantly wanting more and more of you in certain moments (for me, it’s usually when I’m trying to get something else done), they are the ones making the conscious decision to let go first. And hugs actually make for happier, healthier people who are better able to emotionally regulate!

3. Get down on their level.

This applies to kids of any age. If they are little kids, literally get down on their level when talking to them. When we are eye to eye (or even a little lower than their eyes), it shows our willingness to even out that power playing field. When a child has to look up at us, it can feel intimidating – and just plain uncomfortable depending on how tall you are.

4. Meet them in their world.

Transitions can be hard for anyone. A simple way to encourage more cooperation is to meet them in their world before asking or telling them to do something (I know this isn’t always possible). If your kid is playing Minecraft, go sit beside them and wait for them to invite you into their world. If they are reading a book, do the same. You don’t even have to talk when you join in. If time and patience allow, let them initiate the conversation. Once there is a natural break, you can offer up the coming transitions.

5. Turn on some music.

Do you ever hear a song come on that takes you to a very specific time and place in your memory, even if that time and place was 20 years ago? Music is so powerful. Music is a fast way to bring my kids out of a funk. And if I’m present with them, either dancing or watching their eyes while they boogie, it strengthens the connection at that moment while previous disconnects melt away. Once we are connected, it’s much easier to talk about the harder struggles.

6. Tell stories together.

These stories can be about your own experiences that might make them feel less alone. They can be about hard times, good times, favorite times, sad times. Stories can be your own family history or about little children flying to far off lands on dragons. Telling stories are a favorite in our house. They let us control the narrative of a situation, especially when it’s a situation that makes us feel powerless in reality.

7. Invite them to do something that you love.

My son knows that I love photography and that I write for a living. He knows that I enjoy yoga, eating good food, listening to music, reading books, drinking kombucha, and spending time with my best friends. One day, I asked if he wanted to try taking photos with my camera. “But that’s your special camera, mom.” I assured him that he could do it. A few years later and we both enjoy taking pictures together and now he’s already talking about depth of field and shutter speed.

8. Write letters to each other.

I first learned of writing letters to your child from the book Playful Parenting. I can relate to writing letters, especially during conflict, because it’s hard for me to verbally articulate myself when my heart is racing and hands are shaking during confrontation with other adults. Writing letters during those moments creates a bridge between you when speaking is hard to do. And writing notes during happy times is also a fun way to connect. You can also save your favorites to look back on in later years.

9. Look at baby pictures together. Squeal at their squishy little faces if you are the squealing type.

Sometimes my littlest wants to be a baby when she sees our friends oohing and aahing over little babies. What she is communicating is clear, that she wants to feel seen in that way. Almost always, I can whip out my phone and thank the Cloud for storing all of my photos of her for the last 4 years. We look at all of those funny and adorable memories of when she was a little squishy herself. Sometimes she still wants me to pretend she’s a baby, and that’s ok too. She’ll always be my baby and sometime too soon she’ll be too big to scoop up in my arms and rock her like a baby.

10. Get silly. 

My son recently asked me why adults don’t play very much. I thought that was a very valid question and one that I wanted to change. There are so many serious aspects to adulting and a little bit of silliness (preferably daily) would probably work wonders on our mental well-being. Initiate silly games. Tag. Hide and seek. Dance parties. Blinking contests. Knock knock jokes. Wrestling around. Pillow fights. Jumping on the bed. You get the idea. In the same vein, when you are struggling, share those struggles with your child in an age-appropriate way. “I’m feeling sad right now. Mommies feel sad too sometimes.” This vulnerability allows them to flex their empathy muscles.

11. Go on special dates together.

This is usually easier if you only have one child. But multiples makes little dates a little trickier if you are aiming for solo time. I do most things with both of my kids. We bond equally well with all of us together. But sometimes it’s easier to really connect with my oldest when my youngest isn’t bouncing off the walls (and off of her brother). Do little surprise things together when the opportunity arises. Even if it’s something as simple as going to the playground alone together. Uninterrupted time with a child is so powerful. And slowing down really allows for more of these special moments.

12. Observe without “judgement.”

What I mean by this is to observe their play without interjection or distraction. If they are painting, then don’t praise the painting. If they want your opinion, be specific. “I see that purple made the shape of the monsters head.” Let them tell the story. Let them play how they want while we are present. Sometimes my daughter’s play feels unkind at times, the way she has her pretend characters speaking to each other. Sometimes I want to speak up and teach her how they can speak kindly to each other. And sometimes I do. That’s ok. But if I step back I often notice that she is working through an experience that she witnessed, and she needs to do that in her own way.

There are so many little ways to connect with the people in your life. This list is anything but exhaustive. When I’m struggling to connect with my kids, I usually look within first. I’m often having trouble connecting with them because I’m feeling out of sorts myself. Lots of self-care, deep breaths, slowing down, and a willingness to shake out that rigidness are all ways to get into that connection groove.

What are some of your go-to connection methods? Please share in the comments!

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