LIFE'S BETTER WHEN YOU'RE TOGETHER. HERE ARE TIPS ON MAKING TIME! By Ella Miller
Sometimes life can feel like a whirlwind. Kind of crazy and upside down. There has definitely been a lot of uncertainty and changes happening in our world lately. In the midst of all of the ups and downs that might include job shifts, home schooling, working from home, and cancelled vacations, for parents one thing hasn't changed — the need to be the rock of the family... the glue that holds everyone together. Parents are the providers of safety and security for the family.
That's why it's more important than ever to feed positivity into our families RIGHT NOW so that children aren't left feeling worried, confused or like parents are too consumed in everyday schedules to help them make sense of it all. While we don't have to necessarily pretend everything's perfectly OK, we can make an extra effort to let our children know we’re there, they matter, and we're listening... and continue to make moments that reinforce they're our number one priority.
Speaking from experience, my own work situation changed. I went from a corporate job in an office to writing in my home office. I had to go through rebalancing, rethinking, and reimagining how to keep life moving forward because I refused uncertainty to allow fear or chaos to hold me back. With a new job, home to manage, volunteer work, self-care and an all-around full plate, I also had to make sure that my energy wasn't being sucked up and leaving me lackluster when it came to spending time with my three children.
After all, my kids are more important than anything, so I wanted to make sure that I was consciously, thoughtfully creating quality time together, even on days when I had lots to do. So, I set out to find ways to connect with each child in ways that felt natural, not forced. Because nothing is fun when "Mom’s making me do this!" After some trial and error, I came up with a list of few activities that could change our lives for the better and bring our family closer — integral to elevating everyone's sense of security and comfort today, tomorrow, and long-term. This list is meant to be an inspirational starting point. You can use these ideas or come up with your own, tailored to what your loved ones enjoy.
1)KID-FRIENDLY CONVERSATION STARTERS: This questions-based activity is good to do when you're all together, like in the car, around the table, or even waiting in the lobby for an appointment. Instead of turning up the radio, turn up the conversation with a few questions that apply to their world and can get them gabbing. If you have more than one child, be sure that each child gets a turn. Go ahead and join in the fun and answer the questions yourself. Your kids might learn something about you, too!
Questions for younger kids can include: If you had a super power, what would it be? What's the kookiest food you've ever eaten? What's the funniest thing a friend ever did? With what material would you build a fort? If you could have any animal in the world as a pet, what animal would it be? If you could grow anything at all on a tree, what would you grow?
Questions for older kids can include: What's your happiest memory? If you had a million dollars, how would you help others with it? What's something in your life lately that made you feel brave? If you were a book character, what kind of character would you be? If you could visit any place in the world, where would you go and why? What qualities should a super hero have?
2)THINGS TO DO TOGETHER: One thing I learned is that my to-do list wasn’t going away. But if I adjusted how I accomplished those tasks, I could incorporate my kids and make it a fun, family affair. What's cool about doing chores together in an entertaining or educational way is that stuff gets done yet it doesn't feel like work. Here are 3 activities that created more family time and got stuff done!
Sensory Garden Game
If weather and season permits, transform the simple chore of picking veggies or flowers from the garden into a sensory experience that applies your children’s sense of sight, smell, touch and taste! Have your children pay attention to various details such as which plants are the tallest and which are the smallest? What else do they notice about the plants? Urge them to smell the various plants and describe each scent — sweet? Flowery? Kinda stinky? Same goes for touch. Let them touch the stems, leaves and petals of the flowers. Have them feel different veggies, from soft tomato bushes to winding, green bean vines to thick, rubbery cabbage leaves and tell you what each one feels like. Or after you've picked, washed and properly prepared your garden bounty, let everyone have a taste and talk about what a great experience you've all had.
Nature Walk To The Mailbox
Sure, I could drive by the post office and toss envelopes to mail into the mailbox myself. But for those who have a mailbox within walking distance, why not have your child(ren) join you and spot nature in action along your journey. Our nearest mailbox is two blocks away and sometimes I can’t believe how much cool stuff we see. In Spring and Summer, we spot ant hills, bird nests, butterflies, blossoming flowers that we try to name, and even neat-looking rocks that we collect. During Fall we marvel at changing leaves, caterpillars, fallen pinecones, and squirrels gathering acorns. In Winter, we discover giant-sized icicles, amazing patterns in the ice on the ground, animal tracks and the silly snowmen that our neighbors build. Suddenly, something as mundane as dropping bill payments in the mail turns into a path to discovery and time to catch up, joke around, laugh and even sing songs together.
Clean-up Basket Toss
Kids' toys. Dog's toys. Dirty clothes. Wet towels. Around the house there's always plenty of stuff to pick up off the floor. What makes cleanup more fun is when mom or dad holds a toy basket or laundry sac and the kids ball up and toss the stuff to be cleaned up into it, like shooting a ball into a hoop. Make it more of a challenge by awarding points for every item that goes in to create some lighthearted competition. My boys get really into it and almost forget they're helping me to pick up around the house because we're having so much fun as a family!
I have three sons of varying ages. I have learned that making one-on-one time with each child has truly positive effects. First, it provides each child with individualized attention so they feel uniquely special. If you have more than one child, ever notice what happens when they're altogether? Well, for me, the youngest tends to be the loudest and tries hogging all the attention. The oldest child starts to act younger to steal some attention away. And the middle child gets stuck between them and turns grumpy and pouty, and the mood goes downhill from there. But when I share one-on-one time with each of them, they can relax, be themselves, and not feel like they have to one-up each other or vie for attention or affection. One-on-one time also shows that I value them and what they have to say. Here are some suggestions on how you can make time together happen:
Consider your child's personality and what is appropriate for their age. And feel free to incorporate your kids into deciding what to do together so they feel a part of activity, from start to finish. Are they athletic? Biking, hiking or even just walking a nearby trail with them and stopping to sit under shady trees to chat creates a meaningful one-on-one experience.
Is your child nurturing? Head to a local animal shelter or pet shop where you can check out and pet the puppies, kittens, birds, lizards, and more. On the way back, talk about the visit and the amazing creatures you saw.
Is your child adventurous? You can both go on a geocaching expedition and find "treasures" that people have planted around your local area (popular geocaching apps include Geocaching by Groundspeak, C:Geo and Cachly) . Or look for cool rocks along a body of water and skip the stones off the water's surface. Or head to a restaurant that serves a kind of cuisine you've never tasted before. Recently, I took my one son to an Indian restaurant and it sparked his love for tandoori chicken. We had a wonderful time talking about all kinds of interesting topics over lunch, from video game strategies to an art project he's planning.
No matter what you do with your children, try to make time together a routine. Investing effort into creating quality moments brings a sense of added security and comfort to their world. And your child(ren) will be appreciate that you're continuing to take an interest in their lives. If they're old enough to notice what's happening in the news and in the world, don't hesitate to ask them their thoughts about what's going on. Ask if they have any questions or concerns and do your best to answer them gently. That way, your child does not have to keep those uncertainties and inquiries bottled up inside. And now, with these activities, you should have the time and space needed to openly discuss matters together.