Protecting Family Connections

Whether you work full time outside the home, are a stay at home parent or somewhere in between, as a parent, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve worried whether you are connecting with your children in a meaningful way. Whether it’s that you’re not spending enough time with our kids, that the time you do spend isn’t quality or a little bit of both, you worry.

For those of you who work full time outside the home, you may be familiar with the rabbit hole I’ve fallen down before. Even after reading articles telling me that I can’t have it all, I continue to measure myself against an unrealistic ideal. Countless nights have turned into early morning while I’ve Googled ways to create meaningful memories with my children, reading articles and sifting through Pinterest for the ‘perfect’ activity that would bring us ‘closer together’. Yet, those bleary eyed times when I’ve managed to bring one of those internet find to life, more often than not those activities ended up with someone in tears. Usually me.

What’s funny is that while I grew up feeling my mother’s unconditional love, I don’t remember her spending hours playing Barbies with me. Or Monopoly. In fact, one of my most distinct memories of my Mom is of her telling me a story. It wasn’t a special story where the main character shared my name, in fact, I don’t remember what the story was, or how old I was. What I do remember is hearing her voice vibrate in her chest and resonate in my ear. I remember the warmth, the love, the security, the connectedness I felt with my mother. We were as one. It is a memory from my childhood that I cherish. She didn’t stress over creating this moment, it just happened. It’s a memory born out of an organic moment between a mother and child. Nothing else.

Reflecting on that moment with mom, I’m starting to understand that creating meaningful interactions with our children isn’t about quality or quantity. It’s about being present for our kids when we are with them. It’s about being in the moment with them and showing them that they’re important to us in whatever way works best for you and your circumstances. It is simply about being yourself around them and creating a home that is filled with love, security and acceptance.

It turns out, stressing about not spending enough time with your kids and then spending time with them is actually not good for them (or you probably). It also turns out that your kids need unstructured time playing on their own as well: “Building relationships, seizing quality moments of connection, not quantity…is what emerging research is showing to be most important for both parent and child well-being.”

So, I guess we can have it all. It’s just a matter of understanding what that means. I liken it to the happiness adage…it’s a journey, not a destination. Stop trying to create these moments, just let them happen. If you’re still not sure how to go about this on your own, here are some suggestions:

  1.  less time in the car and more time walking. It’s amazing the conversations you can have when no one is competing with the hum of the vehicle.
  2. Find a sport or activity you an all do together. We ski as family in the winter and hike together in the summer.
  3. Watch movies everyone can enjoy. Some of the best movies I’ve seen lately were for kids.
  4. Bake/cook. Not only will you have fun doing it, some say it encourages children to eat a variety of foods they may not otherwise try (this has never worked for me, unless cookie dough counts. But we do have lots of fun together just the same and I’m passing on a valuable skill to my children: how to make chewy chocolate chip cookies).
  5. Make cleaning fun. And remember, they’re your kids, not Molly Maid, modify your expectations accordingly.
  6. If you want them to enjoy what you love, you need to enjoy what they love. If they love Lego, find a way to enjoy it too. If they love to colour, grab a Mr. Sketch and doodle away.
  7. Leave your devices alone…and ask them to do the same.
  8. But, don’t be afraid to watch funny YouTube videos together.
  9. Remember, creating connections is a journey, not a destination.
  10. Stop feeling guilty. It’ll only spoil the fun.