Tuesday, November 1, 2011

How to Connect With Kids

Fun Ways to Connect With Kids ©Katrena
As a mother of three children, I have learned that there are very few easy answers or hard and fast rules for being the perfect parent. Actually, I don't think there is such a thing as a perfect parent. Parents are human and so are the kids. What worked well yesterday might turn out to be a flop today. One child might respond with enthusiasm to an effort that another child finds far from engaging.

Here are three ideas for connecting with children:
  1. Spend time with the kids.
  2. Encourage each child's interests.
  3. Be open and honest.
How to Spend Time With the Kids

Spending time with the children can be much more difficult that one might think at first glance. I teach online classes from home and teach several exercise classes at some local gyms. It ought to be easy for me to spend loads of time with the kids, right? Wrong! I can easily get busy grading, developing classes, or running from gym to gym and miss out on quality time with the ones I hold most dear. I need to ensure that I schedule time to work and time to spend with the kids every day.

Getting the most out of time together often take rather simple forms at my house. Many of my favorite together times occur in those impromptu, unplanned moments that are natural and amazing, but they may have seemed quite ordinary at the time.

Incorporate kids in daily life. For example, if you are looking for ways to get healthier but are finding it hard to fit everything in the schedule, the kids might be delighted to work out with you. Walk together, take a group exercise class together (if age appropriate), do yard work as a group, or try a family sport. If it snows unexpectedly, go sledding or make snow cream if your original plans aren't working. By the way, you don't have to have loads of snow to go sledding – my kids had a blast with just a dusting of the white stuff!

I spend a fair amount of time in the car with the kids. It can be great to turn off the music and simply talk as we travel. When the girls' alarm sounds in the morning, I enjoy waking them with a devotion, and we love to read together before bed. Sometimes I'll slip a lunchbox note for them to enjoy at school as well. It can be easy to get into the television rut where everyone simply stares at the glowing box but never talks. Interaction works much better, even if it is just chatting about life in general.

Learn About Each Child's Interests

Children have a world of possibilities competing for their time these days, and it can be wonderful to encourage them to cultivate their own interests. These interests may be foreign to one's own interests. Learning more about what interests the kids may provide a new appreciation for that subject or at least indicate to the kids that you are committed.

Some ways to encourage the interests of a child include:
  • Providing reading materials about the subject.
  • Learn about people who have made that interest into a way of life.
  • Arrange for hands-on learning opportunities if possible.
  • Ask the child about what they are learning and get feedback.
Kids may not be sure of their interests, but a watchful parent might be able to look at character traits and help focus activities that seem to work well with a child's personality. A dramatic child might be interested in learning more about acting. A reader might like to learn more about writing. The child that is always climbing may thrive in gymnastics or cheerleading. One that loves to draw might like to learn a variety of art techniques. Kids interested in foods might enjoy helping with the cooking.

It can be tempting to sign up a child into every possible activity available, but kids can get overloaded just like adults.  Be selective in order to provide more in depth and meaningful activities rather than hurrying from one place to the next each day.

How to Keep it Real for the Kids

Connecting with kids is never a static activity. As life changes, so do interests. Some ideas will work better than others. Life circumstances may make it very difficult to become connected, but honest efforts are often met with appreciation at some point. Be willing to change direction if needed, and set priorities accordingly.

It may be easier to start when the children are young, but many people are able to develop a meaningful relationship even in later life. I worked as a cancer nurse for over 17 years. I never heard a patient say they wished they had worked more hours at the office, but many have looked at me with tears in their eyes, wishing they had spent more time with their family. Life is short – be willing to do what it takes to maintain what is important in life.

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