Guest Blogger, Dixie Somers
There are only so many hours in the day and as parents we often pack each day full of work, school, running the house, activities, dinner, and bedtime. It’s not surprising that in the midst of all of our responsibilities, we sometimes feel disconnected from our children. We all know that our children are the most important little people in our lives, and we want them to feel that we value their interests and abilities while also showing we care in a meaningful way that they will remember. So the question is, how do we do all that with the time we have available each day without just adding one more thing? Here are four ways to get more involved in your child’s life that are fulfilling and meaningful.
Show Them That Education Is Important
Just like sports teams, schools always need volunteers. Most classrooms invite parents in whenever they can make it to read to the class or run a station. If your schedule allows it, spending the day or part of the day at your child’s school will pay dividends in terms of connecting with your child. You will get to see them interact with their peers and be able to put faces to the names your child talks about. You will also show them that school is important and that you are invested and interested in what they do there. Your child will feel like you are a celebrity and show you off to their teachers and friends during your visit.
Many of us have jobs that don’t make it easy to spend time at school during the day. Don’t worry; there are many other ways to connect with your child and their school. You can volunteer to help out at an evening event (school dance, science fair ice cream social) or simply take your child to events that happen at their school in the evening. Even sitting with your child every night as they do their homework will help you to connect. They can ask questions and you can see what they are studying. Having conversations about what they love to learn about as well as what they struggle with can help them to see you care deeply about their education. Plus, it gives you many topics to talk about if you know what they are learning about in school and how they spend their day.
Learn a New Skill Together
One of the best ways to connect with your child is to learn a new activity together. It puts you on the same skill level and really allows your child to interact with you in a new way. Maybe your child wants to learn how to paint. Michaels and other craft stores have free classes for parents and children to learn to paint together. Maybe your child wants to build something. Check out the free classes offered at Home Depot to build birdhouses.
Learning a new skill together can really deepen your connection with your child. They see you trying new things and being willing to be vulnerable and you see them as they try to do something they’ve never tried before. With a bit of planning, you and your child can learn all sorts of new skills. Be sure to check out community websites or sign up for mailing lists at your favorite stores for events to try with your child. Learning something together provides you will a place in your relationship where you are working as a team to accomplish a goal.
Jump Right In and Coach Their Team
For children, sports are fun ways to be social and active with their peers. Having Mom or Dad there to share the fun and excitement makes it even better. Most sports teams need volunteers to do just about everything. Even if you know nothing about your child’s sport of choice, there are plenty of ways to help out. You don’t have to have an athletic administration master’s degree to volunteer to be an assistant coach, be in charge of equipment or management on the sidelines (have you seen what happens when little kids are not directly involved in the play? They definitely need sideline management!), keep score, organize the other volunteers, or bring the snacks each week.
The point is to spend time with your child engaging in a physical activity they love. You will be there to cheer them on and high-five them when they find success, and you will also be right there to cheer them on and pick them up when they don’t. Your involvement will show your child that their passions are important to you, even if you don’t love their sport. Win or lose, your child will feel connected to you on the ride home as you talk about the highlights and the things to work on for the next game. For you, that’s a win-win.
Date Night with Your Child
Once a month, commit to taking your child on a date—just the two of you. You can plan the date together which allows you time to talk to your child about activities they love to do. You can even take turns planning the activity for your special night. These dates don’t have to be expensive at all. You can go to the park or playground, have a picnic, or roast marshmallows in the backyard. You can also check out a baseball game or a new restaurant if that’s something your child wants to do (Groupon and Living Social can help you plan less expensive dates out). The point is planning and spending time with your child one-on-one. For at least a few hours each month, they will be the center of your attention. You can talk and engage with your child in a way that might not be possible in other settings (like at home with siblings or on a team with 20 other kids). These nights out will allow you to reconnect with your child and really get to know them as a person. This will be their favorite night of the month!
Your child is your most important investments. It is important to connect with your children in order to help them feel valued and loved. It is also important for you as a parent to be an integral and valued part of their lives, not just as provider, but as mentor, coach, and teammate. The connections you build with them as children will help to strengthen your connection with them as they become teenagers and young adults.