The Number One Ingredient For Connecting With Your Kids
I remember when my son, Jonathan, was a toddler. Saturday mornings were daddy and son time. That father-son connection was essential. They loved hanging out and doing "boy" things together.
That connection with our children, teens, and into adulthood is important at any age. Staying connected is not always easy. Life is about change and with change comes transition and certain challenges. For instance, work, deployment, divorce, blended families, school activities, and other life circumstances may pull us away from our kids. It's important to look for the opportunities to create meaningful moments.
As our children transition into adulthood, the journey means we can't always know all of their teachers and friends or co-workers. The older they become the more they begin to find their own identity. They may explore new interests, new hobbies, and new adventures. This is great news, but it also means redefining our relationship with our kids through the various stages of their lives.
When my kids were young, Fridays were game nights. It was a way the whole family could connect, especially after a busy work week, sports activities and music practices. Saturdays were filled with sports activities, outdoor adventures, or visiting with friends. Sundays were always fun as we went to church and hung out with other families.
At times it's easy to know exactly what our kids love, what their needs are, and how to stay connected. Growing up, Jonathan loved sports, reading, writing, drawing, playing video games, and hanging out with friends. For our daughter, Marissa, it was changing outfits several times a day, playing with Legos, tap and ballet, playing her cello, and hanging out with friends.
Sometimes our children's interests pull us away, unless we are intentional in connecting with them. When Jonathan was in elementary school and would play his video games, he would ask me to come watch him play. So, I would sit and watch him play for a moment, while he would explain to me about all of the characters and objectives of the game. I remember he also read a series of books and asked if I would like to read them; this gave us another avenue to connect. Never miss an opportunity to connect with your kids. Never pass up an invitation that shouts, "I love you!"
Marissa and Mommy times were always easy, but as she began to get older she sought independence as she discovered what it meant to become a young women. It can be a struggle for parents to let go or remember we were once that age. Not allowing our children to become independent and experience some freedom can strain our relationship with our adolescents. Marissa and I were able to set up boundaries that gave her the space she needed, while still scheduling our mother-daughter time and seizing impromptu opportunities to hang out.
I remember when I found out I was pregnant with my first child, I took college courses in child development, read parenting magazines regularly, and took every opportunity to attend parenting workshops and conferences because I wanted to be the best parent I could be. At one of the conferences a women in the audience asked how she could have a relationship with her teenager. She said that as a child they never really had a relationship and now she wanted one. My heart went out to her.
The London Journal of Primary Care did a study on The importance of early bonding on the long-term mental health and resilience of children and found that, “Without a good initial bond, children are less likely to grow up to become happy, independent and resilient adults”. In Psychology Today, Bonding is Essential for Every Infant, Marvin G. Knittel, Ed.D. writes, "Children who are securely attached when they are infants develop high self-esteem and self-reliance as they grow. Studies on attachment show that these children are more independent, perform better in school, have successful social relationships and experience less depression and anxiety.”
Early bonding is essential for building positive relationships. These early bonds set the stage for how children will feel about the relationships they form throughout their lives. As children move from toddler to preschool age, it's important that parents pay attention to their child's individual preferences and help them to understand the importance of respecting others. For instance, learn how your child receives love, show your support and acceptance of them, and help them to feel secure and safe.
As parents, we may tell our children, "I love you" one hundred times a day, but are they receiving it in a way that makes them feel loved (Chapman, 5 Love Languages)? Even though we spend an entire day or a weekend with them, is that time expressed in a way that makes them feel special? Do they feel that you believe in them, that you are committed to their well-being, and that you will be there for them when the chips are down? Is your love within reach and unconditional or does it come with a price tag and is conditional?
For me, the number one ingredient to connect with my kids means being consistent and intentional in entering their world at every stage of their life. Is it easy? Not always. Are they worth it? They are my blessings!
Do you know how your child best receives your love?
In what ways are you promoting your child's self-esteem and self-reliance?
How are you consistently and intentionally entering your child's world every day?
Children are a blessing and a gift from the LORD. Psalm 127:3 (CEV)