Connecting with your older kids can be tough even under the best circumstances. As they transition from childhood into adolescence, and then into the teen years, all their other “stuff” becomes way more important than spending time with mom. Add in your own crazy schedule and it can seem like you and your child or children might as well be on different planets.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Sure, finding time to have meaningful interactions can be tough. Yet, with a little intention and creativity there are some simple steps you can take within your hectic daily lives that help keep – or bring – you closer together.
Make dinner time family time. Prohibit use of any electronic devices at the table, whether you are at home or out. This helps to eliminate unnecessary distractions. Interestingly, when devices go up, most kids will naturally become more engaged in the meal and discussion.
Even if your kids are already driving, or riding with friends who are driving, try to ride together on as many outings as possible. Then, make it a “car rule” that phones and devices are to be put away while on the road. Not only does this make the ride more conducive to conversation, it also gets kids in the habit of putting all digital distractions aside when in automobiles.
Aside from creating time to talk about what’s happening in your lives, for drivers and riders, looking up – instead of down – is safer for everyone involved.
Just as “date night” is important for the health of a couple’s relationship, family night is just as critical for family health. If possible, try to “enforce” family night once a week. On this night, plan a family activity for at least two hours of the night—no matter how busy everyone is.
During family night, of course, no devices are allowed. Also, try to avoid movies since interaction is low while watching a film. Instead, find a game to play. Older kids may guffaw at or buck this idea initially but usually, warm up to it quickly. This is especially true if you find a game that allows them to make fun of – and laugh at – mom and dad (and siblings).
- Make Eye Contact When You Do Find Time to Talk
Never underestimate the power of eye contact in deepening connections quickly. They say the eyes are windows to the soul. That is one reason eye contact is considered one of the best ways to inspire trust and build relationships quickly and easily. Getting and holding eye contact is also something that is super easy to add to your day, even when time is at a premium.
- When You Can’t Beat Them—Join Them
While it would be wonderful if we could back down our use of technological devices from where it is now, that’s probably not going to happen to any great extent. The instant-access handheld technology provides for data, information, and communication, has become so ingrained in our lives, there is likely no going back.
Thus, if your kids are old enough to have electronic devices and social profiles, befriend them where they are. One, this enables you to monitor their interactions with others – and the information they are posting – without having to rely on them to relay this information. Two, it can allow you to connect with your kids multiple times a day as well. Even just sending a quick text to say, “Hi. I hope your day is going well,” can go a long way. Furthermore, since this is probably a communication mode they are accustomed to and comfortable with, it’s not going to require them to adapt to or comply with something new.
Sure, it can be hard to connect with older kids. Time is not always on our side in this endeavor, for many reasons. However, with just a little effort, we can incorporate some of these strategies into our daily routine – and their daily routine – quickly and easily to see improvements in communication and interaction with the “little” ones we love.