Our kids need us to spend time with them. Kids develop values, security, positive self esteem and the ability to make good connections with others when parents spend positive time with them. Think of the time we spend with our kids now as an investment in their future.
One of the most important ingredients in a successful life is connection with other people. Studies show that kids who are connected to others are better able to handle life’s adversity and that connection is cited as the key to success. Other studies show that the key to success in childhood despite hardship is having at least one positive person in the child’s life that supports them emotionally with whom they bond. This means you.
The parent-child relationship is the basis for all other relationships your child will have during his lifetime. Therefore, it is crucial that you create a healthy relationship with your child. This requires you to spend lots of time with your kids. Children who never connected often have Reactive Attachment Disorder which haunts them for their entire lives. The basic ingredient to attachment/connection is how well you respond to your child so they develop trust that when they need something (like food) you will respond and give them what they need. The Successful Child, What Parents Can Do the Help Kids Turn Out Well by William and Martha Sears is a great resource for learning the steps to creating a connected child through all stages of development – from birth on.
Connection cannot occur unless you spend time with your kids.
Make sure you are ‘present’ when you are spending time with your kids. If you are busy with chores, or distracted by your Blackberry when your kids are around, you may think you are spending time with your kids but in fact they do not have your attention.
I have a theory that we learn to pay attention when we are paid attention to. Think how good it feels when your have someone’s undivided attention. You feel heard, visible, and important. Your brain learns to concentrate much more easily when someone is totally focused on listening to you.
But think about how you feel when you are trying to talk to someone who is distracted, not totally focused on what you are saying. I don’t know about you, but I find this very distracting and I have a hard time keeping my train of thought. When they don’t pay attention it’s hard for me to pay attention.
How many times has your child told you all about something that happened in their life and you realize you didn’t hear any of it? You may have been distracted by what you were doing, or by thinking about a problem you had at work that day, and on and on. Your child may feel disappointed and invisible when they realize you didn’t hear anything they said. When you decide to be truly present for your child, you pay attention to what your child is saying, you look at him, you think about what they are saying and probably feeling. You will enter into a deeper connection with them. They will feel your presence and bask in it. They will feel valued.
6 Steps to Positive Time with Your Kids
1) Consider time spent with the kids an investment in their future. Spend time with your kids, listen to them, guide them, and show them you love them. You will help them feel better about themselves, develop positive values, and make better choices in the future
2) Make spending time with the kids a priority. Look at the family schedule and find ways to decrease overall commitments to leave more room for time together. Before taking on a new assignment or working late, think about how it will impact your time with your kids. Make time to be available to your kids when they need you, not just when you have time for them.
3) Ditch the Blackberry, iPod, iPad, and TV when spending time together. When you are with your kids, really be with them. Pay attention to them. Interact with them. Listen to what they have to say.
4) Change ‘if only’ to ‘next time’. Instead of looking back and saying ‘if only I realized how important it was to John for me to attend his ball game I would have left work early’, say ‘next time I will be at his game’. Then make sure to be there.
5) Consider whether your finances can handle a stay at home parent or a parent who works part time. The majority of homes today need two incomes to meet financial obligations. Look for ways to cut expenses so at least one parent can stay home or work part time. It is particularly helpful to children when a parent is home when they get home from school.
6) Choose carefully who the kids spend their time with - daycare, family, friends. When you cannot be with your kids, think about how the people they spend their time with influence them. Choose positive role models with values similar to yours who truly pay attention to your kids.
Apply these steps to your relationship with your significant other as well as your kids. Your relationships will flourish.
Debra Burdick, LCSW, The Brain Lady, owns Advanced Options, LLC, a private psychotherapy and Neurofeedback practice in Waterford, CT. Advanced Options, LLC is the home of the BRAIN FITNESS TRAINING PROGRAM, which combines outpatient psychotherapy services, Cognitive/Behavioral Therapy and Neurofeedback to help clients of all ages to improve their lives by helping them feel better, think better, and perform at their peak. For more information, please visit www.TheBrainLady.com.