Having a family means having a busy life. Sometimes I feel as though I'm constantly going and catering to the needs of others. The focus can be so centered around the things we need to do, that we forget about the little things our kids need from us--like connection.
We carry computers in our pockets in the form of smartphones. This brings an expectation that we're constantly on the clock. Even on evenings and weekends, many of us hold jobs where clients and colleagues expect us to respond immediately to emails and calls. With this constant connection to work, friends, and social media, the connection with our kids is weakening.
I took my daughter to the children's museum a few weeks ago. As I looked around, I noticed parents and grandparents physically present with their kids but mentally and emotionally, there was no connection. The parents sat next to their kids, staring in to the abyss of their smart phones. They looked up occasionally, when the child shouted "daddy look what I made!" or to check if the child was still there, but other than that the parents were transfixed.
We can't be constantly present with our children but it is amazing what connection and presence can do. My own child is a toddler and wants constant attention from my husband and I. Even when she is being independent in the park, she looks over to make sure we are watching. We are continuing to build the attachment relationship we established when she was a baby.
Though attachment is important to establish from birth, many don't realize it is important to continue this attachment bond as children grow. No matter how independent, giving children our full presence helps to keep that attachment bond strong.
Since the 1990's, the percentage of families who eat dinner together has declined by 33%. With just the simple act of eating dinner together as a family with no electronic devices present, children are said to perform better academically and are less likely to participate in risky behavior as they grow up. If this is true of the simple act of eating dinner together, imagine the possibilities if you added more connection in other ways.
Device Free Dinners - Start by setting a rule for device free dinners. Have each member of the family leave their devices in a different room so there will be no distractions.
Family Rituals - Create family rituals like sitting on the couch to unwind for 10 minutes and talk about your day when everyone gets home from work and school.
Bring a REAL Camera - Rather than using your phone as a camera, bring a real camera. That way, there will be less distraction and there will be another step before you can upload the pictures to social media.
Remember the Simple Things - Do you remember how much fun it was to lay outside and watch clouds as a kid? Give your kids that same pleasure. Activities such as this strengthen connection and creativity.
Look for Cues - Even our youngest kiddos let us know when they need to connect. When we see tears we know it is a need for connection, but we often don't realize a bad mood may be a need for connection as well. Give them the space to cool down while letting them know you're there and present.