We all have times when we feel overwhelmed with responsibilities and tend to kick into autopilot with our kids. But if our minds are elsewhere during the time we have together we may as well not be spending the time with them at all.
Practicing mindfulness helps us to develop our moment-to-moment awareness.
Taking a few minutes a day to sit in a quiet space and focus on our breathing, or listen to the sounds around us, puts our brains in a relaxed state. A state in which we become better listeners, less reactive, less stressed, and can create meaningful moments with our kids.
As parents we spend a lot of time simply trying to get through a stage, through a week, or through a day when our kids are young. I recall our first family vacation when my kids were one and three. It seems like yesterday, and before I know it they may not want to go on family vacations anymore, preferring to spend time with their friends.
It is critical, both for our kids and for us, to find ways to create meaningful moments during the time we have together.
And the older kids get, the busier their Saturdays are with friends and activities. Depending on your child’s age and your own work schedule, there may be as little as one or two hours a day during the week for you to spend with them.
Instead of worrying about how much time we spend with our kids, focus on turning that time into meaningful time.
Not every day with your kids is going to be perfect. We are going to make mistakes, be irritated, want to pull out our hair, but a few meaningful moments can go a long way. They become the moments our kids remember, the ways they will define us as parents, and the keys to maintaining a healthy relationship as they get older.
10 Tips to Creating Meaningful Moments with Your Kids
1) Walk or Ride: Taking the extra time to walk or ride your bikes to and from school or the bus stop can create priceless moments that are easily sacrificed to the convenience of our cars. Take your time, listen to them, look them in the eye. It is as good for you as it is for them.
2) Ice Cream Friday: Set up an afterschool ritual one day a week. Go get ice cream afterschool, grab a smoothie, or take a walk in nature.
3) Snuggle Time: Set up a nightly ritual with your child. Create something special that the two of you do each night. It can be talking about the best part of your day, singing a special song, telling a funny story. These are the rituals kids remember years after you are tucking them into bed.
4) Star Gaze: As the weather gets warmer we can take advantage of the fresh air in the evenings. Have your kids all ready for bed, PJs on, teeth brushed, then head outside with a blanket and spend 10 minutes gazing at the sky.
5) Family Dinner: (You knew this was coming) make family dinners a priority, and use this time to engage and have fun, not fight over eating enough broccoli. Keep them happy and engaged and they will eat.
6) Cook Together: Be willing to sacrifice the cleanliness of the kitchen to some meaningful moments with your kids. Dinner needs to be made, why not turn the task into quality time spent together. They are also more likely to eat what they make!
7) Plant a garden: So many great lessons here, and the moments keep coming as the flowers start growing!
8) Divide and conquer: When you can spend time one on one with a child you can create conversations that don’t occur when they are battling their sister or brother for your attention. Whether it is a trip to the store or a weekend away, spending time with just one of your children is incredibly rewarding.
9) Become the student: We forget how much our kids learn every day. Take the time to listen mindfully to them as they teach you something they learned that day. Start with the way they do addition-it’s different than when we were kids!
10) Play Catch: With so many forms of entertainment it seems the classic parent-child experience of playing catch has gone by the wayside. Playing catch is not just about learning to throw and catch, it is also about the conversations that occur during the process.