Here in New Zealand we have just entered week number 2 of the school holidays and I have felt the pressure to be spending more time with our kids. I know the world is topsy turvy right now and many kids are being home schooled, so holidays and term time feel much the same. But holidays usually see the routines go out the window. Kids have more time on their hands. And they seem to become a little more demanding (well it sure feels that way in our household). It is now, more than ever, that I am reminded how its not really about spending more time with our kids, but really more about connection.
Time vs. Connection
There is a well-known saying that “Kids spell love T-I-M-E”. As mothers we all know the pressure we put on ourselves to spend more time with our children. All the studies show that children thrive when they get to spend time with their families. It is not the new bicycle or the fancy X-Box that they will remember when they are older- it is the relationships and connection they experienced.
Well I want to shift that well-known saying a little and say that “kids spell love C-O-N-N-E-C-T-I-O-N”. Because, lets face it, we can spend hours in the company of our children getting chores and work done, feeling irritable and distracted and that is not going to fill their cups.
What Kids Really Need
Kids want to feel loved, important and valued. You can connect with your child in a meaningful way over a short 15 minute period and leave them feeling loved and valued. At the same time, you could spend all day with your child while you race from one task to another and they could be left feeling forgotten.
So you see, it is not about spending more time with our kids. It is more about the connection you are creating.
The pressure we put on ourselves to be spending more time with our kids is immense. I hear my coaching clients put this pressure on themselves all the time. But as a busy, working mother and CEO of All The Things, where do you find this extra time? Nine out of ten times these moms land up feeling even more burnt out, overwhelmed and stretched thin.
The more we feel this way, the less available, present and energetic we become. A bit of a vicious circle, if you ask me.
We try to be kick-ass mothers and put pressure on ourselves to spend more time with our kids, do more things and feel overwhelmed, burnt out and lack energy. We feel crap about ourselves and put more pressure on ourselves
… and so it continues.
I cannot reiterate this enough. We do not need to be spending more time with our kids.
We need more connection.
And we can find moments of connection all over the place.
School holidays are one of those times where kids have more time but working parents don’t. Parents then experience the increased pressure to spend more time with their kids. So here are a few creative ways to form deeper connections without having to (miraculously) find more time just because it is school holidays.
One of the most powerful ways of creating close connection with our kids is forming little routines. It is a well-known fact that children thrive with stable, consistent and predictable environments. So routines fit is well here.
I have found that a simple morning routine with my daughter works a treat. She often helps me decide on an outfit for the day and I do the same with her. It doesn’t take long to do this together and we feel united as women dressing for the day. We are also killing two birds with one stone: Getting ready and getting connected.
Other simple morning routines include having breakfast together, packing lunches or simply enjoying a hot drink together as we wake up.
If a morning routine feels a little difficult to accomplish, you could always try an evening routine. Parents of younger kids can use bath time for connection. Alternatively reading a book together before bed is another great way to connect.
The moments before going to sleep are often a fabulous time to connect. In our family we have a routine about tucking each child into bed. This is a great time to ask your child what their favourite part of the day was and set intentions for the next day. Older kids can also make use of this quiet opportunity to tell you what has been on their minds for the day.
Little routines can happen anytime during the day. It is simply taking something and making it a more consistent occurrence and then injecting some intentionality into the situation. In other words, intentionally focussing on the present and what it has to offer.
Out of the Ordinary
Kids love spontaneity. The truth is, they are living in the present while we wonder around in the past and future. So when something happens that is out of the ordinary it can bring real joy to their lives. It’s not about spending more time with our kids, it’s about finding ways to connect more.
Every now and then we suddenly pull out the Bluetooth speaker and blast music. We start to dance and see who can make the best or funniest moves. Each person gets to pick their favourite song. It is a real treat and usually only lasts around 15 minutes before everyone is sweaty and panting.
Any activity that you can think of that shakes things up a bit will do the trick. Think about the last time you had a cardboard box with bubble wrap in your home. If your kids are anything like mine then it became the favourite item to play with for the next half hour. This is only because the box is novel. Within an hour the novelty wears thin and the box finds its way to the recycling.
Use this and think out of the box (excuse the pun) to find simple and easy activities to do with the kids that won’t require hours of your time. Something that brings laughter and joy and really connects you in the moment.
Kids love to move. They love to ride bikes, to run and play. And if we remember that they love spontaneity and anything out of the ordinary then you can pair these two and create connection in exercise.
Every now and then I rope my kids into a yoga session with me. They don’t normally manage more than 10 minutes and they certainly aren’t pros. But they do love trying to pretzel their bodies and challenge their balance. I guess they probably love laughing at me too as I grunt and snort my way through the poses.
Point is it’s a win-win. We got some exercise and we got to connect. Going for a mindful walk together, playing hopscotch or even setting up and HIIT training session could work. You could position the kids as your personal trainer – they would love it and you would probably get an awesome work out too.
My kids LOVE Snapchat. We don’t actually use the app for anything other than the photos and we never send the snaps anywhere. But they love to take turns sitting on my lap and seeing their morphed faces. It is a great time to connect over the funny faces we can see and another activity that normally takes only 15-30 minutes.
If selfies aren’t your thing, you could spend time each day to take a photo of something meaningful. You could create a weekly theme for the pictures and then each day you take a photo of something that represents the theme. Younger kids will respond better to simpler themes such as “animals” or “plants” whereas you could use more abstract themes with the older kids.
Not only does this stimulate creativity (and possibly a love for photography) but you also get to connect without having to be spending more time with the kids.
Do the Chores
So you may be wondering how this made it onto the list of ideas for creating connection. Truth is that you can create little moments of connection anywhere and everywhere. Doing chores with kids is another area that provides opportunity to talk about the deeper stuff without it feeling like a confronting conversation.
You see, when kids are focussed on an activity they often forget that they are being watched or intently listened to. Their guards drop a little as the focus shifts off them. It is a great time to ask some powerful questions and talk about the big things.
Try not to make the chores the real focus here. It is inevitable that your child will not fold the laundry to your standards. My dishwasher is always re-packed when they are not watching. So let up on the need to have the chores done perfectly and rather see this as a moment to simply be in the space of your child.
Connection That Meets Their Needs
Our children have an uncanny way of showing us they need our attention. They become more demanding, or loud, or act out. These are all signs that they are needing more connection. We often believe this is when we need to spend more time with them and value quantity over quality.
When they are not busy with school work or play then there is more time for them to focus on getting their needs met by us as parents. When we don’t have hours’ worth of time to spend with them, then it is important to shift the emphasis from time to connection.
Creating smaller moments of deeper connection is more powerful in meeting their needs than hours’ worth of distracted time.
Mindful parenting is the next step in creating this connection. Becoming more present and mindful with the moments you have available is a sure-fire way to create more intentional connection with your family. You can get connected without needing any more time at all, which is great for busy working moms like us!
If you are really interested in exploring this more, sign up for the Back to Balance Course here and discover easy-to-implement strategies to get you present and available. Even when you are super busy.