12 Ways to Connect With Your Children

Don’t let yourself become so concerned with raising a good kid that you forget you already have oneDear Moms,

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.

Poem to busy to stop and play

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.…

celebrating birth of child and becoming a big sister

 

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.

I love you, special sayings, goodbye

Cherie Werner @thewerners.org

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.

serving together as a family

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).

Meaningful Traditions

Meals Together = A Werner Tradition

Meals Together = A Werner Tradition

Sharing about warm fuzzy family traditions used to bother me. You see, I grew up in an environment with few traditions to pass on. My husband, on the other hand, had a different experience. His family had too many holiday traditions. As such, we had to sort through where and how to celebrate the holidays. Together we decided what traditions we desired to keep and we also set out to establish new ones.

Traditions are invaluable as they are the super glue that holds families together. They give children a sense of security and comfort, because they provide continuity in an ever-changing world. Traditions also give the family something to look forward to throughout the year lending to a sense of closeness within the family. As families establish and follow traditions, the family is strengthened and grows in unity and love.  So make an effort to establish some significant practices that you repeat yearly.

What are Family Traditions?

Traditions are practices or beliefs that help create positive feelings, a sense of belonging, and are often repeated regularly. Many traditions are handed down from generation to generation, but every family can create its own traditions as well.

Traditions are the “we always” of families, like “We always say God be with You when we depart from each other or usually we sign “I love You” or “We always” have dinner together as a family.  Because such traditions have meaning that is special to an individual family, they create feelings of warmth and closeness. By spending time together in a fun and special setting, family members grow closer. Effective traditions promote a sense of identity plus a feeling of belonging.

Make sure you have spiritual traditions and incorporate spiritual truths into your traditions. Traditions that bring family members closer to God should be a family’s first priority. Some of the simplest spiritual traditions include praying together, going to church together, serving together, etc..

Establish new traditions especially as your family dynamics change.  Choose traditions that include every family member and are sensitive to the needs of all family members. Remember that every family is unique; do what works for you. Also don’t overwhelm the family with new traditions. Pick one or two and see how things go.  If it does not work no problem let it go.  I have tried many new traditions that never amounted to anything other than a good laugh.

From time to time, evaluate your traditionsTo make sure your traditions are working for your family, it’s helpful for families occasionally to identify and evaluate traditions they already have and make plans to add new ones. Also as your children grow you will find yourself letting go of some traditions that worked well while they were younger i.e. family game/pizza night, evening devotions, etc..  My older girls are now independent and living on their own so I need to evaluate what traditions we will use with Cayley and when all together.

I will share some things my family has done and continues to do.  Remember we are the Werner family and these are things that work for our family.  Feel free to write down those that are of interest to you but I encourage you to talk to your husband, family and God before implementing them.

General Traditions

  • For birthdays, each family member chooses his or her favorite menu for the day or they may choose a favorite place to eat out.
  • For birthdays we play The Beatles “Birthday Song” and the birthday person dances with other family members as we videotape them.
  • For religious milestones such as accepting Christ as personal Savior (Spiritual Birthday) or baptism, our girls were given a Bible or other things to remind them of that special day.
  • We make eating together at the dinner table a priority. This greatly impacted our daughters and promoted openness within the family during meals. To encourage conversation, we would play “high point, low point of the day,” by each sharing what a high point of their day was, as well as any low points.
  • Our family has a special RED dinner plate that says “You Are Special.” We use this plate to honor a family member who has a reason to celebrate – a good report card, promotion, birthday, etc.
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  • We would read our girls bedtime stories & pray with them before bed.
  • We enjoyed going to church together as a family as well as sitting together.
  • Another cool idea is to keep a family journal. I have an individual journal for Jon, Caryn and Courtney. I used to write in them when the girls were home and they would write back.

Thanksgiving Traditions

  • Serve others as a family.
  • Focus on being thankful and having a grateful heart during the month. Write thank you notes.
  • Go around the table and share 3 things you are thankful for.
  • Reflect back on the blessings of the year.
  • Invite those without families of their own over for dinner.

Christmas/Hanukkah Traditions

  • Celebrate the true meaning of Christmas by keeping it Christ centered. We’ve enjoyed Adorenaments by Family Life.
  • These picture ornaments tell the names of Christ.  The ones hanging are Lamb of God and Good Shepherd.  There is a scripture reference and devotion for each ornament. Best of all they are durable and non breakable for small hands.

    These picture ornaments tell the names of Christ. The ones hanging are Lamb of God and Good Shepherd. There is a scripture reference and devotion for each ornament. Best of all they are durable and non breakable for small hands.

  • Celebrate Advent.  There are many wonderful books to guide families through the Advent season.  We found Jotham’s Journey and Bartholomew’s Passage to be wonderful for school aged children.
  • These Advent books hold the attention of children 8+ and each evening ends in a cliff hanger having the children asking for more.  We truly have enjoyed these books for the past eight years.

    These Advent books hold the attention of children 8+ and each evening ends in a cliff hanger having the children asking for more. We truly have enjoyed these books for the past eight years.

  • I have a Family Christmas Journal that I began in 1992. I write where we celebrated Christmas, with whom, and special details of the season.  I also have a place where I store previous Christmas greetings (cards/letter and family photo we have sent to family & friends).  It’s fun to go back and look at the photos and read the letters we wrote.
  • Take a family photo to include with your Christmas letter.  What fun it is to look back over these.  Be sure to keep a photo for each child for when they leave home.
  • Our Christmas Journal

    Our Christmas Journal with 2009 Christmas letter and Family Photo

  • When the girls were younger, we made homemade gifts and ornaments, snowman wraths, scented candles, etc…
  • Collect or make one ornament each year that has special meaning to the family and each child.  Our family picks out an ornament together when we are on a family vacation, or if a child played a particular sport or started a new hobby, we will find something to signify that event. As the children get older they will have their own collection of ornaments that are significant to them in some sweet way.
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    WINE GLASS for daughter who turned 21, CAMERA for daughter who is a professional photographer, and Taylor Swift GUITAR for daughter who went to her first concert “RED”

  • Visit a nursing home to bring good cheer.
  • As a family, put up and decorate the tree making it a fun event with music and good food.
  • We have various movies we watch during the Christmas season – It’s Wonderful Life, White Christmas, Miracle on 34th Street, Polar Express, Christmas Carol, The Grinch, etc…
  • Collect Christmas stories and read them.  I now have a box of books that I pull out in November. A favorite read is The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, by Barbara Robinson.
  • Act out the Christmas story or use a flannel board to let children tell the story.  We bought each of my girls a small nativity and when they were young they would play with them and I’d ask them to tell me the story of Jesus’ birthday.
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    Nativity made of felt we made back in the 90’s

  • Drive around the neighborhood looking at lights and listening to Christmas music. In Austin we visit the Trail of Lights.
  • images
  • Have children put one piece of straw in the manger for every act of service they do in December. By Christmas it should be soft and comfortable for baby Jesus.
  • Find a live nativity to visit.

New Year’s Traditions

  • Write thank you notes for those who blessed you during Christmas. I include thank you notes in everyone’s Christmas stocking to make this task easier.
  • Set resolutions for the family as a whole.
  • Ring in the New Year with a traditional southern meal.  Each of the different foods represents a good wish for the year to come. With black-eyed peas symbolizing luck, mustard, turnip, cabbage or collard greens representing money and ham for never going hungry, this tasty meal is delicious as well as lucky.

Valentine’s Day Traditions

  • This is Jon’s birthday so we allow him to decide what we do on this very special day.
  • Call relatives or send cards and tell them you love them.

Easter/Passover Traditions

  •  Resurrection Eggs – The Easter Story for Children by Family Life.
  • Have neighbor kids over to make their own resurrection eggs as you tell the story.
  • Host an Easter egg hunt.
  • Enjoy the Passover service together, including include prayers, scripture readings, songs, hand washing, a meal (including the eating of hard-boiled eggs as a symbol of the renewal of springtime), eating of green and bitter herbs, unleavened bread, and wine (fruit of the vine).

In closing if you struggle to know what traditions to implement, I encourage you to be just relax and be creative.  What is your favorite family tradition? How will you create a new family tradition?

Traditions: Our Family’s Super Glue

 Join me at MomHeart to discover the many values of family traditions.

Traditions are invaluable as they are part of the super glue that binds families together. Traditions give children a sense of security as we live in an ever changing, uncertain world.   Traditions create closeness within the family as the repetitive events build memories and stability.

Does your family have special traditions you’d consider to be the  “super glue” that binds the family together? What traditions do your children enjoy most?  To read more go to MomHeart.