10 Ideas for Connecting With Your Kids

Every Tuesday is Finance & Family Day at Zen Habits.

Sometimes we can be so busy with our jobs, and our personal goals, and changing the world, that we have very little time to spend with our kids.

And trite as it may sound, the time we have with them is so limited, and passes so quickly, that we may lose out on their childhoods completely if we’re not careful.

Make time to connect with your kids — it’s worth the investment. This post was prompted by reader Brent, who recently asked this question:

I’ve only got two kids and I find it hard to make sure that I spend some time alone with each of them each day or even week.

I have a pretty good job, but somehow increased hours just seem to slip in unnoticed. I still hop in the bath with the kids after dinner, which is usually the first time I see them all day, and my wife and I share reading duties evenly.

I try to promote an appreciation of Thisness in my kids: every once in a while we sit out on the letterbox together and just name the things that we can hear.

Given that you have 57 kids, how do you manage that many relationships? What do you do to stay connected to each of them?

Well, just to clarify, I only have six kids. :) But here are some ways I’ve found to connect with them on a regular basis:

  1. Make a date. Set a weekly date with each child, so you are ensured some alone time with them.
  2. Read with them. I’m a big fan of this. Read to them every day if possible. It’s great quality time, and one of the best things you can do to help them in life. See the Best All-time Children’s Books.
  3. Talk to them after work. When you get home from work, instead of sitting down and watching TV, or taking a nap, or finding some other way to veg out after a long day at work … take the extra effort to sit down and talk with your kids about their day.
  4. Play “Highs and lows”. If dinnertime isn’t a productive time to connect with your kids, try playing this game (my kids love it): go around the table, and each person shares his high points of the day, and low points. One or two or even three of each is good. And everyone should really listen. It’s fun, and a great way to connect.
  5. Work on a goal together. My son Rain and I recently completed a 6-month-long goal together — reading the first 5 books of Harry Potter aloud together. We made it a goal to finish all five before the movie came out (this weekend!), and it took some long reading sessions, and sometimes 2-3 times a day, but it was fun and very rewarding. And it taught him about setting and achieving goals by taking small steps each day. Now, my 7-year-old daughter Maia and I are doing another goal — to get her in shape for soccer in August. We have a workout plan, and I’m the drill sergeant, and we have a cool high-five we give each other at the end, and she has a workout journal. It’s a lot of fun, and it bonds us.
  6. Play with them. Don’t be afraid to be a kid with them. Play video games, watch cartoons, play board games, have pillow fights, make a fort, play superheroes. Play at their level — don’t expect them to play at yours.
  7. Talk to them in the car. Sometimes the only time my oldest daughter, Chloe, and I have together alone is when I take her to choir events or other school activities. This summer we’ve had more alone time, but sometimes we’re so busy, that the time when I drive her to and from these events is our only chance to talk. So I take advantage of it — and we have some great, deep conversations in the car.
  8. Have a Family Day. Every Sunday is strictly for Eva, the kids and I. We don’t work, we don’t do (much) housework, we don’t go to functions or parties (usually). We plan out what we’re going to do, and we do really fun things with the kids. Last weekend we went on a hike and it was a blast. That time is reserved for them and no one else.
  9. Have a Family Meeting. Before we start Family Day, we have our weekly Family Meeting (usually on Saturdays but sometimes on Sunday mornings). I wrote about it here. I know this isn’t exactly one-on-one time, but it’s a great way for us to talk about things with the kids, have fun with them, and include them in decision-making.
  10. Just snuggle. Every now and then, just pull your child to you and hug them. Snuggle, be affectionate, squeeze them tight. That kind of physical intimacy is important — and the day will come when they don’t want to snuggle with you anymore. Take advantage of it now.

What are your ways of connecting with your kids? Let us know in the comments or discuss it in the Zen Habits forums.

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