Don’t let yourself become so concerned with raising a good kid that you forget you already have one. Believing in your child and highlighting their assets creates a strong connection between you and your child.
Today’s American families are starving for connection. Personally, I have found 5 C’s helpful to remember – connect (just do it), consistency matters, put time together on the family calendar , be creative, and communicate your desires plus seek their input.
Below are several ways my family has connected over the years. While these suggestions will look different for each family, I personally appreciate looking into how others go about life.
1) Family Mealtime by far has been one of the most important ways for our family to connect and develop a sense of who we are as a family. We aim to sit down and eat at least five meals together achieving far more.
Mealtime is one way to provide a nutritious meal along with a healthy deposit of quality time into one another’s lives. Understandably, toddlers can be difficult to manage at the table, but remember, table time is a golden opportunity to train them. Over time, with consistency, they will become accustomed to sitting, listening, and participating in the good conversations and fun during mealtime. We view family dinner as a time to connect, laugh, tell stories and catch up on one another’s daily “high point and low point.”
2) Establish a family night where together you play board games, watch family movies, look through family photos or videos, enjoy pizza, etc.… As your children get older let them become involved with the planning.
3) Spend quality time daily with your child. Kids spell love T-I-M-E and know the difference between quality verse quantity investments. It’s easy to assume that you spend all day with your child but are you connecting? Make a habit of getting down on the floor to enter your toddler’s world. Ask your grade school children what quality time would look like to them.
4) Date your children. My girls relished the one on one time they would have with their dad or me. It was fun to take them places they enjoyed such as ice cream as well as allowing their dad to occasionally treat them to a special dinner, teaching them what it’ like to be lavished by a man. I found having a monthly date with our children allowed them to share their hearts more deeply as they didn’t have to compete for attention and it gave them something special to look forward to.
People always told me that my girls would grow up quickly, but I had no idea just how fast time would pass. When my girls were toddlers while attending a MOPS gathering, someone read the poem below. Neither my husband nor I can read this poem without tearing up.
5) Make memories by celebrating milestones. Memories are those once in a lifetime events that mark the moment. Consider the many first events in a child’s life and creatively finds ways to commemorate them. Events we celebrated include first Christmas, relinquishing a pacifier, potty training, beginning Kindergarten, accepting Christ, baptism, completing elementary school, menstruation, graduation, etc.…
6) Make holidays, special events, and family traditions meaningful. Traditions are the things you do year after year and are known as the “We always do___________________.” An older post I wrote on meaningful traditions offers suggestions on cultivating traditions.
7) Have endearing names and special saying. Jon fondly calls Cayley “K-Bob.” When parting one another’s presences we usually say, “God be with you and I love you,” while waving the I love you sign. SHMILY – See how much I love you.
8) Make your home a sanctuary, a safe and inviting place that your children and their friends would want to hangout. It helps to maintain a kid friendly home verse a museum that discourages kids from being kids in fear of breaking things.
9) Serve together. Service should begin in the home to each other and be carried into the world outside the walls of the family. As a family we began serving the homeless of Austin when my daughters were toddlers. We have gone on several mission trips to Mexico one when Cayley was three.
Suggestions for toddlers:
- Teach your kids to serve by providing opportunities for them to serve others while they serve alongside you.
- Teach children how to pray for missionaries.
- Collect bottles of shampoo and soap to donate to a women’s shelter
- Donate toys and gently used clothing.
- Give gifts to less fortunate kids at Christmas time. (Operation Christmas Child boxes, Christmas Angel,
- 2-year-old can help with household tasks – unloading the bottom rack of the dishwasher, setting the table, making bed, pushing the laundry basket down the hall
- Serve the elderly neighbors by bringing them a card or meal or just pay them a visit.
Adolescents need to know that they matter. As your children mature, it’s helpful to find volunteer opportunities that fit their personality.
- Homeless shelters or outreaches
- Visit a nursing home
- Food Banks
- Ronald McDonalds House
- Visit little ones at local Children’s hospital
10) Invest and be interested in your child’s passions. Becoming a student of your children is helpful in discovering what their gifts, talents, and abilities are. Since we are all created for a purpose, we must help our children discover their unique place. Previously in a post, I answered this question, “How did you discern your children’s career desires and passions? How did that direct their educational choices both in high school and transitioning beyond high school to college?”
11) Express your love and appreciation via the written word. Slip notes into their lunch box or under their pillow. Begin a parent-child journal to go between each other sharing positive words of blessing, recognition, gratitude and hopes for the future.
12) Bedtime routines provide a wonderful time for connecting with little ones. As you bathe, cuddle, read and pray together you mostly likely will encounter inquisitive children who are slowing down enough to verbally process their busy day.
While it goes without saying there are numerous ways to connect with your children. Your job is to just do it. The benefits are numerous. Please share some ways you connect best with your child(ren).