Build a deeper connection with your kids.

Your life changes the instant you become a parent; it becomes crazier, louder, and a whole lot more joyful. We love our kids and crave a connection with them more than they’ll know until they become parents themselves, but it can be hard to find as much time as we’d like to spend with our kids.

After all, we have to focus on work, taking care of our children at home, and getting them to and from different activities — and that’s before you even factor in making time for yourself or having a social life. It’s enough to keep your days packed full, making it seem incredibly difficult to set aside time for your kids. Thankfully, you can use a range of daily and weekly habits to build a deeper bond with your children, no matter how busy you are.

Here are 10 ways you can strengthen your connection with your kids.

1. Set aside time to give your children your full attention.

No matter how busy you are, it’s still important to set aside time to spend with your kids. When you do this, you need to put your phone and all of your work away. Make a little ceremony out of it by putting your phone in a special drawer so your kids know they’re going to get your full, undivided attention. They need to know that not only do you care about spending time with them, but you genuinely enjoy their company, and hanging out with them is the most important thing you could be doing.

Splitting your attention by constantly texting, working on paperwork, or even scrolling social media when you should be spending time with your kids and listening to them talk makes them feel like they aren’t as important as whatever it is that’s distracting you. Being 100% present in the moment, however, makes your children feel valued and loved while building trust between you.

2. Write down things you’ve enjoyed doing in the past.

Brainstorming family activities you’ve done in the past puts things in perspective and gives you an idea of what activities created the warmest memories. It’ll also help you come up with ideas for activities you can do with your kids; you can do the activities your family loved most or put a new spin on them to create new activities. The ideas you come up with can help you and your kids have fun while creating new, even happier memories that will bind you together even closer.

3. Don’t think you need to spend money.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of assuming you need money to spend time and have fun with your kids, but don’t make this mistake! Your kids simply want to spend time with you; going to the new aquarium might be a blast, but when they’re older, your kids won’t care whether you could or couldn’t afford the tickets or how much money you invested in family activities. They’ll care about the time you invested in spending with them. You can spend time with your kids and create unforgettable memories without spending a cent. Try going camping in the backyard, building blanket forts inside, being silly together, and snuggling together for nightly story time. It’s these moments that fill up your love meter and create the best memories.

4. Learn how to respond to their emotions helpfully.

Psychologists say how you respond to your children in times of emotional intensity is one of the best ways to strengthen your bond with them. Whether your child is sad or angry, the best thing you can do is welcome their emotions and keep your own emotions in check; don’t react out of anger or frustration. Instead, focus on being glad that your child feels safe coming to you with their problems and being honest about their emotions with you. Letting them talk to you about these emotions and, when necessary, helping guide them through the issue will help your children feel more relaxed and cooperative.

This can be incredibly difficult when you’ve had a fight with your child, but remember you’re the adult; not only do you want to connect with your child and end the confrontation positively, but you’re setting an example for your child about the way they can and should handle their own emotions.

5. Take a short walk.

This is a simple activity that doesn’t have to take long, but even a short walk can feel like a fun outing for your children. Plus, walking is free, it’s easy, and it gets you and your kids away from technology. It’s a mild form of exercise, so it’s even good for you, and it’s a great chance to spend time simply talking to your kids.

6. Fit in plenty of physical acts of affection.

Humans are incredibly social; so much so that we actually need touch to stay physically and mentally healthy. Touch also helps us build and strengthen bonds, so it’s essential to give your children plenty of physical affection on a regular basis. Don’t make them feel like they have to work hard to earn your love, praise, or affection. Make an effort to hug them several times a day and provide casual signs of affection, like patting their backs or ruffling their hair. While you’re at it, make sure you tell your children you love them often and freely; kids need to hear this. Showing your children how much you love them on a regular basis will reinforce that bond, helping them feel closer to you and build feelings of mutual trust.

7. Do art with your kids.

Channeling your inner artist and doing art with your kids inevitably creates some quiet moments both you and your kids can appreciate. It’s also a great way for your children to have fun and explore their creative side, and it can be just as fun for you! To make sure it stays a fun, stress-free activity for you, make sure you use washable paint and prepare for a mess.

8. Let your children help you.

Knowing you were helpful and really made a difference in someone else’s day is a great feeling, and it’s one your kids can benefit from, too. Allowing your children to help you with tasks, like age-appropriate chores, bringing groceries inside, or cooking, teaches them important values, but it also makes them feel useful, helps them feel like you trust and rely on them, and like they’re giving back to you. Additionally, asking them for their opinion, such as their input on your outfit, will help your children feel like you value their opinion. Just make sure you’re prepared to follow their advice; ignoring their opinion can have the opposite effect.

9. Ask your children about their day.

Take time out of every evening to ask your children about their day — and really listen when they answer you. Let them unload and destress a little if they had a rough day and do your best to comfort them and give them advice if they need it. Similarly, let them ramble excitedly if something great happened and share in their excitement. Remember to follow up with them the next day, such as asking how their math test went or if their field trip was as fun as they thought it’d be. This lets them know you were listening and that you genuinely care about their day, which builds trust and makes them more likely to tell you when something is bothering them or if they’ve made a mistake.

10. Eat dinner as a family.

Life is often hectic and busy, so it’s not always easy to get everyone together at the dinner table for a meal, especially as your children get older. Even if you’re busy, however, you should still make an effort to shuffle around your schedules so you can eat dinner together most nights. If you’re constantly running out the door, your kids won’t have the opportunity to sit down and talk to you about the things they’re excited about, let alone things they’re worried about, so even setting aside 15 or 30 minutes every day for a family meal can make a big difference for your kids. Banning technology at the table and sticking to your rule will help ensure dinner turns into a great opportunity for your entire family to bond as you talk about your days or tell funny stories.

We all want to be present for our children, so while finding a good balance between your busy schedule, spending time with your kids, and unwinding at the end of each day can be difficult at first, it’ll be worth it once you find a routine that works for your family. You’ll be able to build a deeper connection with each of your children so you’ll be equally comfortable joking around with them as you are talking to them about difficult subjects — and you’ll create quite a few wonderful memories along the way!

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