In today’s hurried life, parents often find it difficult to connect with their children and worry that they are losing touch. Children are stretched in many different directions as well, with academic demands, after school activities, and social events leaving little time to build a meaningful connection with their parents. Not only does this disintegration of connection affect families with school-age children, it is affecting parents with infants as well since many parents return to work full time after the baby is born. In holistic and integrative medicine, we remember that human connection – the sense of belonging, feeling loved and nurtured, and much more – is essential to maintaining health. This could not be more true for parent and child, and today more than ever, families must be diligent and intentional to keep a healthy connection alive within their homes.
But have no fear! The meaningful connection you desire is possible and is not out of reach despite your demanding lifestyle. However, it may take some thinking outside of the box and a return to the basics (now put that cell phone down and focus, you can tweet about it later!). Here are three tips that I have found to be successful in fostering my own relationship with my little one:
1) Play Favorites!
Yes, you read that correctly. Engage in a favorite activity that your child enjoys. Take the time to play with them and play their favorites! Take a survey of his or her interests and build from there. Are they an avid video gamer? You don’t have to know all of the latest gaming trends in order to connect. Consider watching a behind the scenes documentary together of how games are made, or go on a tour of a game company studio. Is your child an animal lover? If they have a favorite animal, have a themed day! Start with dinosaur shaped chicken nuggets. You can call a friend and schedule a time to stop by and see their furry feline, or go to a dog park or horse show. The focus is to TUNE IN to their interests and be creative, there is no extravagance necessary! It can be as basic or as over the top as you want it to be.
2) Get Dirty!
Yes, you read that correctly too. Get outdoors and get your hands in the dirt and get dirty! If you live near the ocean, go to the beach. Build sand castles. Teach your child how to plant herbs in the garden, or learn together. In holistic pediatrics, we are always talking about ways to keep kids active, outdoors, and learning about healthy nutrition. Gardening activities cover these important aspects of wellness and create time for bonding with your little one. Make mud pies and pick blueberries! Nature has a way of drawing people together. You are away from day-to-day distractions with nothing but sky, wind, earth, and family by your side. Less noise and more time for listening equals more time for connecting.
3) Write a story and live it!
Take some time with your school-age child or teen and write out a few family goals. Set intentions, and do your best to help them achieve their goals. Ask your child to plan a few mini-adventures or even write out a huge dream. Imagination is the ticket! Create a vision board to serve as a visual representation. Use poster board and magazine clippings, or suggest creating a digital vision board (think Pinterest) if your teen isn’t up for using scissors and glue. Over time, you will be able to look back together, learn from the ups and downs of what did or didn’t come to pass, and celebrate your victories together, all while connecting along the way.