Whether you’re a single parent, carer, guardian, in a co-parenting situation, or raising your kids as a couple, most parents will at some stage find themselves asking the question – How do I connect with my child?
In an age where technology rules and chaotic schedules are the norm, how do parents find ways to stay connected with their kids. Based on feedback received from parents in Interrelate’s Building Connections program, which supports parenting after separation. Along with some guidance from our clinicians, we have identified ways to help you as parents, stay connected with your children whether you’re together or apart.
For some families the impact of separation, fly-in/fly-out work, shift work, or busy schedules, can make it challenging to find the time, and often the right ways, to connect with your offspring. If you are struggling for ways to connect with your child, here are 5 ways to enhance your relationship, and your presence in their lives:
Technology free time
Yes, you’ve heard this one before, but that’s because it actually works! Scheduling dedicated, uninterrupted technology free time together to do something (or nothing) without the interruptions of texts, and Tik-Tok, allows you to get to know one another without distraction. It may feel uncomfortable at first if you or your child are used to having the phone or iPad at hand, but it’s the kind of uncomfortable you need to learn to be comfortable with in order to form authentic relationships with your child. If you are separated by distance, then technology may need to play a role, but make sure you have an activity or a topic in mind that keeps you both connected, and not looking to the phone for a distraction.
Bring back the bedtime story
Now this one may not be so appealing to those who have teens (or even tweens for that matter), but the good old-fashion bedtime story is a great way to spend some quality time with your loved ones at the end of the day. Not only that, but reading has shown to have a positive impact on sleep and cognitive function, so it will bring broader benefits to you and your family. This activity can be shared between the parent and child and can be done over Zoom or Facetime as well. For parents of teens, it can be an opportunity to share some of your old favourite reads (age-appropriate of course), and bond with your child over books that shaped your childhood.
Write a letter
In keeping with the old-fashioned theme, writing a letter to your child can be a wonderful way of sharing thoughts, feelings, or even just a funny anecdote from time to time. This is particularly good for parents who may be separated from their children or who have limited contact. It can be less confronting for some children, and adults, to put into words what they want to say. If a letter seems like too much of a stretch than a simple text or funny post-it note can have similarly positive impacts on keeping the channels of communication open and getting to know each other on another level. (Tip, this one can work great for couples as well).
Connect on their level
Contrary to point #1, this one is a little more embracing of technology to stay connected with your child. Now before you get the wrong idea, we’re definitely not saying join all the groups they’re in or go and get that snapchat account. Though often, having one channel in common that your child is comfortable (and has permission) to use, can be a simple yet effective way of letting them know you are there when and if they want to talk. It’s definitely not an invitation to spam your child with memes and trending videos, but it can be a non-invasive way of relating to your child providing there are boundaries in place.
This one is possibly the most fun of the 5, yet the least likely to happen. Why? Because creativity requires time, and time is unfortunately something that most people find themselves short of these days, especially parents. Though there is something to be said for busting out the water colours, or spending the afternoon sprawled out on the loungeroom floor with Lego with nothing but a giant castle to build. Play and creativity do wonders for the imagination and for building social and emotional intelligence, and resilience in children. The other bonus is it’s also fun for you too! Parenting isn’t all about rules and boundaries, and schedules, it’s also about having fun and creating the space for you and your child to connect without an outcome in mind. Getting creative doesn’t have to start or stop with a paint brush, it can be baking, doing a puzzle, or getting out in the garden – so long as you make the time to play.
If you’re wanting support with parenting or just to talk with someone, you can book with one of our experienced clinicians below. For separation support and parenting programs head to Interrelate – and find the right support for you.