Kids. They’re busy, They’re active. They’re also hard to pin down, especially when they’re swiping all day, staring at screens, and drifting down Wikipedia rabbit holes.
If it seems like your child has a closer relationship with your household’s virtual AI assistant, you’re not alone. Even in the age of constant connectivity, many parents feel disconnected from their children. Without your active intervention, the problem’s unlikely to go away. But the solution doesn’t require draconian measures like moving to a desolate, off-the-grid cabin and living off the land.
In fact, you can foster a renewed sense of kinship with your kids by taking a few steps. None are terribly difficult, pricey, or radical.
1. Curate their tech stack carefully.
You’ll need to bring technology into your home sooner or later, especially if your student goes to school online. Still, you aren’t obligated to keep bringing every emerging gadget into the fold. Instead, be thoughtful and selective.
For example, when choosing a first phone for kids, on sites like Gabbwireless.com, opt for a basic tool with an affordable plan. Your elementary or middle schooler doesn’t need access to the Internet, the app store, or social media.
How does this help with your connection? For one, you’ll be able to stay in communication via text and phone, which is reasonable and appropriate. It’s particularly useful if your child is involved in a lot of extracurriculars. Secondly, a kid with a simple phone and fewer tech toys is less apt to become addicted to spending hours in front of screens.
2. Take a class together.
Okay, this is probably an idea you hadn’t considered, but it can forge terrific results. What if you and your child take a workshop or learn a sport side by side? This could be anything from a cooking tutorial online to in-person rock climbing lessons. The goal is for you to sit down, choose something you’d both like to try, and go for it.
Why will this become the cement that glues your familial bond a little tighter? As you can imagine, being classmates transforms your relationship. No longer are you always the know-it-all dad or the disciplinarian mom.
Rather, you take the role of a peer, at least to some degree. This helps your kiddo see you in a different light. Additionally, you might have to lean on your youngster to help you understand something. Talk about a switcheroo!
3. Teach your teenager to drive.
This is a highly overlooked method to spend time with your older child. True, it’s tempting to pay someone else to be a driving instructor for your kid. After all, being a passenger while your teen operates a one-ton vehicle can be frustrating, annoying, and terrifying.
Yet it can also produce memories that are funny, good, and important. Sharing your years of driving know-how could even make your teenager a more responsible motorist.
You can expect some driving trips to be more relaxed than others. Nevertheless, avoid giving up—or allowing your kid to do likewise. Driving is a skill that takes a lot of time and practice. By giving your undivided attention, you’ll show how important your teen is to you. Oh, and a huge side benefit to this suggestion is your teen won’t be able to text.
4. Cook meals as a team.
Whether you’re a two-parent or single-parent family, you know that everyone needs to eat. Though moms statistically still shoulder the responsibility for meals, that’s changing. And you can make a change this week by asking your child to contribute to prepping and cooking dinners. Although you may hear some grumbling at first, stick with your plan to team-tackle some favorite recipes.
Over time, dinnertime can take on a new meaning for you and your child. Not only will it give you both something to look forward to, but it will be a safe chance to talk.
You’d be surprised at how even reluctant or verbally shy kids start to open up when occupied with an activity. Put on some music you can both appreciate, try out recipes, and feed your family. All without losing a stride when it comes to making stronger parent-child connections.
5. Be 100% committed to most kid moments.
Let’s say you’re playing on the floor with your toddler or coloring with your kindergartener. Are you sneaking peeks at your cell phone? Simultaneously Facetiming with a buddy? Or mentally fretting about everything you’re not achieving?
Practice mindfulness and slow your brain. Concentrate on what’s happening, what your child’s saying, and what you’re feeling in terms of love for your kid. You might even want to verbalize your thoughts: “I’m really having fun with you! Thanks for asking me to play!”
Being present during seemingly unimportant interactions can be more meaningful in the long run than you might imagine. Your kids will remember things and days that you’ll forget. So show up fully whether you’re dressing up stuffed animals or playing pick-up basketball in your driveway.
6. Initiate hugs
Humans tend to be physical creatures. That is, they react positively to touch. If you’re not hugging your child—yes, even your sassy-talking teen—regularly, you’re doing them and you a disservice. Both of you deserve the benefits that come from a brief moment of caring and compassion.
Of course, older children who are practically young adults might act as if hugging their mom or dad is torture. Fair enough. Try to incorporate hugs into your day when they’re not in public or in front of their friends. And if hugging seems too familiar or weird, try fist bumps or a quick pat on the back. The point is that you’re showing affection, which can be more worthwhile than other activities you do daily.
Creating connections with your kids in our busy whirlwind of a world doesn’t happen without forethought. Plan to switch up your routine this year as one of your resolutions. In 12 months, you’ll be happy you took the plunge.