Seven Ways to Really Connect With Your Kids

By Kimberley Clayton Blaine

It’s right around the corner — that special day when we celebrate moms. And if you’re holding out hope that your husband will actually remember this year, consider this: perhaps the best gift you’ll receive this year won’t come in a package. And it may just come from the person you least expect—you. Create a connection with your loved ones and benefit from this bond year round. Here are seven simple steps for building stronger relationships.

Make Time to Play … One of the best ways that parents can connect with their children is through play. Not only does play release energy and provide opportunities to be involved in a child’s world, it's also how children process their inner feelings and work out real-life emotions and issues. And while you may feel like you are being present for playtime while your toddler plays at your feet (and you do the dishes), you have to (literally) get down on his level. True connections are made when parents get down on the floor and play with their kids. Drink imaginary tea, build the Lego castle, and piece together those puzzles. Your bond with your child will be all the better for it.

Plug In…Emotionally … Children can experience a wide range of emotions each day from happy to sad, frustrated to triumphant—what may seem to us a trivial moment can be a big deal for them. Parents have to make the effort to “plug in” to what their children are feeling. Understanding what they are feeling will create a mutual understanding and stronger bond.

Create a Few Extra Minutes Each Day … Whether you are rushing out the door for school in the morning, loading up for big brother’s baseball practice, or just heading out to run errands with the kids in tow, building in a few minutes can make transitions much less painful for both you and your children. If you can make it into the car without a screaming fight, then you have a great opportunity to spend those extra 10 or 15 minutes really talking with your kids. Dissect their days, talk through any emotions or feelings they may be experiencing. Or use the time as an opportunity to turn up some tunes and sing out loud together—letting go and being silly with your kids is a great way to have fun.

Fess Up When You Slip Up … Nobody’s perfect—and as parents it’s a given that we will make mistakes as we learn and grow alongside of our kids. But it’s important to remember that in addition to teaching our children, we are also serving as their constant role models. By labeling and talking about emotions, your child learns that feelings are manageable, and he will become comfortable expressing them in an appropriate manner. And that includes admitting when you’re wrong and saying that you’re sorry. In the end, you’ll teach him the valuable lesson that it’s all right not to be perfect.

Let Your Kids Be Themselves … Loving your children’s individuality isn’t hard—you appreciate and adore the quirks and habits that make them who they are. But have you ever stopped to consider how their individual temperaments affect the way you connect with one another? When it comes to kids, parenting and discipline are not a one-size-fits-all bargain. You have to respect your children for who they are—and that includes honoring the ways they are different from one another and different from you. If you are a social butterfly with a son who is painfully shy, you have to respect that in him and not try to force your own behaviors and habits on him.

Replace Anger With Empathy … Make no mistake, kids can test the tempers of even the most mild-mannered mothers. When tantrums take over and tempers flare, it can be a constant challenge to keep your cool. Pick your battles and know that nothing is so important that it warrants extreme anger and coerciveness with your child. If you need to, walk away and take a deep breath, then return to your child to start over. And if you do lash out, don’t avoid the issue or act as if it never happened—this only teaches children to deny their own poor behavior.

Take Time for Yourself … On special holidays like Mother’s Day, moms will often be treated to breakfast in bed, a day at the spa, or maybe even a little “free” time to do something for themselves. However, most mothers get caught up in the hectic schedule of everyday life and neglect to take time out for themselves on a regular basis, which can be a big parenting no-no. It doesn’t always have to be a big event—tacking an extra minutes to run and errand, grab a latte, or flip through magazines at the bookstore can work wonders for restoring your sanity and recharging your batteries.

The emotional connection you share with your kids is irreplaceable. And no amount of flowers or gifts on Mother’s Day would ever compare. Instead of putting all your energy into one day, make small, gradual changes over time. It’s the very best gift you can give to yourself and your children—and it will make every day feel like a celebration of motherhood.