Unfortunately, between working as many hours as you do, and all the other responsibilities that fill your days and nights, you may feel like you’re not really connecting with your kids. While this certainly feels discouraging, “fixing” the problem doesn’t have to take up hours of your already-limited free time. Here are some practical tips to connect with kids of all ages in just 15 minutes per day:
Play together. Reconnect with your kids simply by playing with them. If your kids are fairly young, get down on the floor together and work a puzzle or play a board game. If you have older kids, play their favorite board game or video game together. This is a great way to supervise the content of their video games while also spending time together and giving yourselves a healthy dose of togetherness.
Listen to music together. This is another great way for moms and dads to connect with kids of all ages. If you have toddlers or preschool children, dance around the living room together to their favorite songs. If you have older children or teens, take some time to find out what music they’re into and why they enjoy it. Since we’re often drawn to music that speaks to our own emotions and circumstances, sharing music with your kids is a great way to learn more about where they’re at and what they’re really going through.
Create your own spa at home. Bath time is a regular, built-in opportunity for parents and kids to share some laughter and fun! As your children get older, though, they’ll be able to shower on their own and won’t need as much supervision in the bathroom. But that doesn’t mean this unique opportunity to reconnect will just disappear! If you have tweens or teenagers, take the time to do your nails together or have your own “spa day” at home. This can be a wonderful tool in opening up the doors of communication with your kids.
Cook and eat together. Dinner time offers another important way for parents to connect with their kids. Even during the busiest seasons, see if you can’t find at least three nights a week to include your children in the effort to make dinner, from start to finish, and eat it together around the kitchen table. During this time, turn off the TV and any other distractions, so that you can really sit down and talk while you eat. You’d be amazed at what a difference this one little habit will make.
Bedtime. The bedtime routine is another great way to regularly connect with your kids. More than just a “bedtime story,” your routine can include prayer time (which is a great way to find out what’s going on in your child’s world), sharing the day’s “highs” and “lows,” and the opportunity to ask questions or simply cuddle with one another. Keep in mind, too, that the bedtime routine doesn’t disappear once your kids are old enough to tuck themselves in. Look for ways to adjust your routine, and yet still connect, as your kids get older.
These strategies are just a few ways to connect with kids in and through the busyness of life. Be creative and look for ways to acknowledge your kids and reconnect with them in some small way each and every day.
Article courtesy of http://singleparents.about.com/od/communication/tp/connect_with_kids.htm
By Hannah Richardson, BBC News education reporter
Children should be allowed to get bored so they can develop their innate ability to be creative, an education expert says.
Dr Teresa Belton told the BBC cultural expectations that children should be constantly active could hamper the development of their imagination
She quizzed author Meera Syal and artist Grayson Perry about how boredom had aided their creativity as children.
Syal said boredom made her write, while Perry said it was a "creative state".
The senior researcher at the University of East Anglia's School of Education and Lifelong Learning interviewed a number of authors, artists and scientists in her exploration of the effects of boredom.
She heard Syal's memories of the small mining village, with few distractions, where she grew up.
Dr Belton said: "Lack of things to do spurred her to talk to people she would not otherwise have engaged with and to try activities she would not, under other circumstances, have experienced, such as talking to elderly neighbours and learning to bake cakes.
"Boredom is often associated with solitude and Syal spent hours of her early life staring out of the window across fields and woods, watching the changing weather and seasons.
"But importantly boredom made her write. She kept a diary from a young age, filling it with observations, short stories, poems, and diatribe. And she attributes these early beginnings to becoming a writer late in life."
'Reflection'The comedienne turned writer said: "Enforced solitude alone with a blank page is a wonderful spur."
While Perry said boredom was also beneficial for adults: "As I get older, I appreciate reflection and boredom. Boredom is a very creative state."
And neuroscientist and expert on brain deterioration Prof Susan Greenfield, who also spoke to the academic, recalled a childhood in a family with little money and no siblings until she was 13.
"She happily entertained herself with making up stories, drawing pictures of her stories and going to the library."
Dr Belton, who is an expert in the impact of emotions on behaviour and learning, said boredom could be an "uncomfortable feeling" and that society had "developed an expectation of being constantly occupied and constantly stimulated".
But she warned that being creative "involves being able to develop internal stimulus".
"Nature abhors a vacuum and we try to fill it," she said. "Some young people who do not have the interior resources or the responses to deal with that boredom creatively then sometimes end up smashing up bus shelters or taking cars out for a joyride."
'Short circuit'The academic, who has previously studied the impact of television and videos on children's writing, said: "When children have nothing to do now, they immediately switch on the TV, the computer, the phone or some kind of screen. The time they spend on these things has increased.
"But children need to have stand-and-stare time, time imagining and pursuing their own thinking processes or assimilating their experiences through play or just observing the world around them."
It is this sort of thing that stimulates the imagination, she said, while the screen "tends to short circuit that process and the development of creative capacity".
Syal adds: "You begin to write because there is nothing to prove, nothing to lose, nothing else to do.
"It's very freeing being creative for no other reason other than you freewheel and fill time."
Dr Belton concluded: "For the sake of creativity perhaps we need to slow down and stay offline from time to time."
Having been born “BI” (before internet), I see people frantically texting away and sometimes wonder how they would have survived “back in the day,” when “texting” involved a 30-pound typewriter, messy correction fluid or an eraser, a trip to the post office, standing in line to buy a stamp, waiting a week or two for the letter to get to its destination, and waiting another week or two for a reply.
Why is everyone so darn busy? Today even my auto rickshaw driver was multitasking, negotiating a business deal on his mobile phone while navigating city traffic. Was he even old enough to remember when making a phone call in public meant hunting down a phone booth, having the right change, and feeding more coins into the phone if the call went longer than three minutes?
What I want to know is where does all the time go that we save by not having to go through all that? Shouldn’t we be swimming in leisure time, thanks to all of our time-saving modern marvels?
Is it simply a matter of poor time management? Good advice abounds: Prioritize. Delegate. Do difficult tasks first. Clear your life of clutter. Learn to say no. …
But there is more to it than that. Sometimes it’s not a question of what we are doing, but of what we are becoming. As the Indian sage Rabindranath Tagore put it, “He who is too busy doing good finds no time to be good.”
How can we slow things down a bit and enjoy life more, while still doing everything that really needs to get done?
The other day I was leaving for a meeting when my granddaughter grabbed my hand and asked excitedly, “Can I show you the new steps I learned in dance class?”
Before I could blurt out, “Sorry, I’m too busy. Show me another time,” my mind fast-forwarded five years and I heard her say as she rushed out the door, “Sorry, Gramps! I’m too busy being a teen.”
“Sure,” I said. “Show me your moves.”
Five minutes of vigorous dancing and continuous applause later, I left for my meeting feeling less stressed and more optimistic.
I had found my answer. If we take time to stop and smell the flowers, their scent will linger with us throughout the day, reminding us that there’s more to life than rushing to the next thing.
- Curtis Peter van Gorder, courtesy of Activated magazine.
According to a report in The Express newspaper of Easton, Pennsylvania, studies done by the consulting firm Priority Management show that “the average married couple spends four minutes a day in meaningful conversation, and the working couple spends 30 seconds a day talking with their children.”
Says the firm’s president, Michael Fortino: “Most people say their families are important, but they don’t live that way.”
By Akio Matsuoka
“I’ve been so busy with life that I haven’t had time to think,” a terminally ill woman in her forties told me when I visited her at a hospice. “I realized while lying here that I barely know my husband, my children, or my mother-in-law, who also lives with us. I’ve been wrapped up in caring for them—shopping and cooking, doing their laundry, cleaning after them, helping them with their homework—and yet I can’t say that I really know what they are thinking or what they are going through. I can’t tell you when was the last time that I had a deep conversation with any of them.”
I heard a similar lament recently while attending a seminar. The main lecturer finished and opened the floor for a casual question-and-answer period. An elderly man who was the retired CEO of a large company stood up and spoke to the 100 or so attendees. “I am 70 years old, currently in excellent health, and recently retired with a substantial pension. I was looking forward to finally relaxing and spending time with my family, but yesterday my wife asked for a divorce. I have worked hard my entire life, always for the family that I loved. Where did I go wrong? Why has my life turned out this way?”
I often hear people say that they want their loved ones to be happy, and that is why they need to work so long and hard. Unfortunately, the more successful they become, the busier they get and the less time they have to spend with their families—and the less they reap of the rewards they expected from their investment. While the dying woman’s and the retired man’s motives may have seemed noble at the time, the lives they led to hadn’t been able to satisfy the needs of their loved ones’ hearts.
The Bible tells us, “Don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God.”1 The original Greek word translated “share” is koinónia, which means “participation,” “communion,” “fellowship.”2 Sacrifice other things to make time to help others, to participate in their lives, to share in their victories and struggles, to have heart-to-heart interaction with them—in short, make time to love.
Akio Matsuoka has been a missionary and volunteer worker for the past 35 years, both in his native Japan and abroad. He lives in Tokyo.
1. Hebrews 13:16 NLT
2. Strong’s Concordance
Article originally published in Activated magazine. Used with permission.
By Curtis Peter Van Gorder
Mothers give so much. Their entire lives are a gift of love to their families. We journey far from our beginnings, and then something tugs at our heartstrings and draws us home to rediscover who we are and where we came from.
I sat down with my mother a few months before she passed away and asked her some questions about her life. If you haven’t ever done that, I suggest you do. It’s sure to help you appreciate your mother even more.
Mom told me much about her life and dreams, both fulfilled and unfulfilled.
“Do you have any regrets?” I asked her. “What would you major on if you could live your life again?”
She answered by showing me something she had written in her journal: If I could, I would find more country lanes to walk, bake more cookies, plant more spring bulbs, swim at dusk, walk in the rain, dance under the stars, walk the Great Wall, wade along sandy shores, pick up sea shells and glass, glide through fjords in northern lands, sing country ballads, read more books, erase dismal thoughts, dream up a fantasy.
“Is there any message that you would like to pass on to your children and grandchildren?” was my next question.
Again she flipped through her journal and found the answer already written there: Stop waiting to live until your car is paid off, until you get a new home, until your kids are grown, until you can go back to school, until you finish this or that, until you lose ten pounds.
Flipping a few more pages she came to this entry: Pray for what you wish. God loves to answer because answered prayer deepens faith and adds glory to His name.
And again: Savor the moment. Savor your walking and talking with friends, the smiles of little children. Savor the dazzling light of morning that holds the multicolored way. Savor God’s great earth, rolling hills, the birds, the blooms, the diamond dewdrops glittering on a crab apple tree—all His wonders from His hand.
Excerpted from Activated magazine. Used with permission.
My children are at the age that watching TV or movies is one of their favorite activities. The problem is that nearly everything they want to watch has some attitudes, language, or behavior that I don’t approve of. It also seems that these negative aspects are what my children remember most and tend to copy. How can I protect my children from that?
Many parents today share the same concern. They realize the importance of monitoring and sometimes restricting what their children view and listen to, and certainly it is their right and responsibility to do so. At the same time, it is virtually impossible for parents to shield their children from every negative influence that comes their way. If the children don’t get exposed to these things via TV, movies, and computer games, they will through their peers or other avenues. You can’t always protect your children from the negative, but you can counter it. Here’s how:
Make it a practice to watch with your children and to discuss the show with them afterwards, with the goal of helping them get the most positive and the least negative from the experience. This also gives you an opportunity to discuss problem attitudes or behavior from a third-party perspective—”What do you think that character should have done in that situation?” Over time, this will help your children form strong personal values, as well as teach them to be more selective in what they watch.
It’s important to preview the material whenever possible, or at least read the reviews on it so you are aware of the content. This gives you a chance to make sure it is age-appropriate and otherwise suitable for your children. It also gives you time to think about what lessons or information can be gained. Think in terms of, “How can this benefit my children?” If you draw a blank, it’s probably not worthwhile for your children to watch.
Gear both viewing and discussion to the age of the children. Videos have an advantage over “live” TV in that you can pause to answer their questions. So if you can, record shows and then show them to your kids later. (That way you can also skip the commercials, which pitch some products you may feel would not be good for your children.) If young children are going to be scared or not understand certain parts, then stop and explain or fast-forward. Older children usually prefer to watch the movie straight through and have the discussion afterwards.
In your discussion, the objective is to get the children to think about what they have just watched, and to help them arrive at more mature conclusions than they would on their own. Children learn better by asking questions and thinking things through than they do when all the answers are supplied too quickly. Also, they tend to more readily accept guidance when it comes in the form of answers to their questions or thought-provoking questions that you put to them, than they do when they feel they are being “preached to.”
As you watch, you may also want to make note of points that you could use as springboards for more fun, positive, educational interaction with your children, such as reading more about historical figures, places, events, or activities depicted in the show, or taking them for an outing that somehow relates to the show.
You just might be surprised at how much your children can benefit from movies and documentaries with a little guidance. They can learn about life and human nature; they can learn how to deal with crises and hardships; they can learn to empathize; they can see that bad choices have consequences, and thus learn from others’ mistakes. So while potentially harmful if not properly channeled, movies and TV can actually be a good teaching tool and bring your family closer together if used selectively.
Excerpted from Activated magazine. Used with permission.
Childhood only comes once in life, and it is precisely during these years that the blueprint of an individual’s character is drawn. We can choose to give our children opportunities to discover their talents and establish healthy physical, mental, and spiritual habits that will last them a lifetime, or we can allow these priceless moments to be missed through our busyness—because of unclear priorities on our part, or through too much time spent in non-interactive forms of entertainment.
Children need to have activity; they need other means of development than just what they can glean from videos. Sadly, other activities in children’s lives are getting fewer and fewer these days. They need to have balance in their lives, even if it means limiting their daily and weekly time when they watch videos, or time spent on a computer. While in many ways this is the direction society at large is headed, you need to remember that what you put into a child at a young age will last throughout their lifetime.
Preschool conjures up images of naptime, playing in the sandbox, and learning how to count. These days, little fingers typing on the keyboard and clicking a mouse are also part of the early education experience.
Critics, however, say that starting children on computers too early can disrupt important mental skills including listening, paying attention, and focus. One educator believes that computer usage can alter the way a child’s brain develops.
“The computer doesn’t exercise the brain and body together in the same way that normal childhood play does,” said Jane Healy, an educational psychologist and author. For children, learning to catch, throw, and climb are more important than manipulating a computer mouse, Healy said. It is more important for children to learn to express themselves and play creatively. For example, hands-on play—such as making a doll out of a clothespin will exercise more ingenuity than choosing the color of a doll’s hair onscreen and clicking it, she said.
“Kids are meant to be avid learners, not waiting for the next screen to pop up,” Healy said. “The child needs to imagine out of their own mind, not by using prepackaged icons.”
Developing good social skills is also critical at the preschool age, Healy said. If the child is “glued to the screen,” she is spending less time learning to relate well to others, speaking, and expressing herself. (Based on article by Katie Dean from Wired magazine.)
By Maria Doehler
When my husband Sam and I had only one child, I thought I had a handle on parenting. I needed to adapt and bend and give up some of my independence, but not too much. I was absolutely on top of Cade’s appearance, and he never wore dirty, stained, or soiled clothes. Cade was very “portable,” and we toted him with us wherever we went. When something needed to get done, we calmly set out to do it and got it done. I knew things would get harder as we had more children, but I wasn’t worried; I was pretty good at this.
Brooke arrived next. Brooke was an angel of a baby, waking only to gurgle and coo, and putting herself back to sleep. I had gained less weight during that pregnancy, so I was back in shape in no time. If I could ace it with two, I reasoned, I could handle anything. I was at the top of my game.
Enter Zara. Exit all parenting confidence. It’s not that Zara was difficult on her own, but suddenly “spontaneous” meant 45 minutes later. I often had kids crying in three different parts of the house. Doing anything as a family required the painstaking planning and execution of a mission to the moon. We began hearing comments like “Just watching you wears me out!” But babies aren’t babies forever (before you can brace yourself, they’re toddlers!), and we learned to work with it. We learned that we didn’t have to be perfect. Neither did our kids.
At this point I think I started to better understand that being a mother goes far beyond giving birth and caring for my children physically; it means living my life through my children—not by imposing my ideas and dreams on them, but by rejoicing at and taking pride in their triumphs. Everywhere we went, people would tell us “Enjoy them while you have them. They will grow up so quickly!” That truth started to sink in.
Four kids. Emma is every bit as special as her brother and sisters. Spontaneous now means at least an hour. We still have to plan everything, of course, but we only plan one activity a day, max. We have lots of play clothes and just a few “special” clothes. Once when Zara got blue marker on Cade’s shirt just as we were finally ready to go out, I found myself thinking, Well, at least it’s on a blue shirt. It almost matches. We are a spectacle, but a happy spectacle that people seem to enjoy watching.
I’m continuing to learn about love in ways that are slowly changing the most stubborn parts of my nature. Each child and each day reshapes me a little more, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s fun to be a family!
Article courtesy of Activated! magazine. Used with permission. Photo © www.visualphotos.com
Fun with Video Cameras
• Fun polls. Have the kids question friends and home members about a fun topic, such as: “When it’s raining, do you prefer vanilla or chocolate ice cream?” Video their responses and, of course, their quizzical looks.
• Video diary. Want to know what your kids have been up to? Pick a regular weekly or biweekly time to set up your video camera and have the kids talk about any exciting happenings at school or in the neighborhood.
• Instructional video. Have your kids create their own how-to video for cooking a special dish, doing an arts-and-crafts project, etc. Maybe you’ll even learn how to use that computer.
• Educational TV. Older kids can create a video related to something they’re studying at school, such as recycling, other cultures, etc. What current events are “hot” in your family?
• Local travelogue. Kids can make tapes describing places they know well, starting with their own home. Older kids can make a video tour of the neighborhood. You won’t need to visit your local video store to take your next travelogue trip.
How would your family members like to discover the power of the press while expanding their journalistic and artistic talents? All it takes is some paper, pens or pencils, crayons or markers, paints, a stapler—and a little time and imagination.
• Certificates of merit. Everybody deserves a pat on the back every now and then. Have each participant choose a family member (perhaps by selecting names out of a hat) and design a special award to honor him or her for a recent achievement (say, for putting toys away). Then, emcee a family awards night and present the certificates.
• Read all about us! How would you like to create a public-relations brochure about your family? Fold a sheet of paper into thirds, and have each participant design a panel about a family member (pre-writers can illustrate the text). And don’t forget to title the brochure with a snappy headline.
• Create comics. If your family members have some artistic talents, why not put them to work designing a comic book? You might have each participant work on a page individually, or you can ask younger children to draw the pictures while older kids and grown-ups write the text. Then staple the book together so your children can share their great works with friends. Or have your computer-savvy child draw or illustrate using a computer program or stylus, etc.
• In the news. Has your family been following current events in the community, the country, or the world? Have each participant write a paragraph or two about a recent happening and draw a picture to use as an illustration. Then fold the pages together newspaper style, and try reading it aloud.
• Family magazine. Would your family like to be featured in a magazine? Simply have an “editor” assign stories to “reporters”—say, about school, work, or a recent or upcoming family vacation. Then have your reporters submit their work, staple it together, and find out why your family is so famous.
• Freehand photo album. Here’s an assignment for the artists in your family: Have them draw pictures of themselves or other family members. Or give each person a task, such as drawing somebody at school or sketching the family at a special dinner. Staple all of the “snapshots” together. And don’t forget to add captions for each “photo.”
• Birthday book. Here’s a great gift that family members can make for one another’s birthdays. Have each participant write and illustrate a page of a story, making sure to use the name of the birthday boy or girl at least once on every page. Then design a cover, and staple the manuscript. Now you have a truly personalized birthday gift.
• Numbers book. Here’s a way to help younger children learn their numbers while making another book to add to their collection. Give your child ten sheets of paper, and ask him or her to write a number (from one to ten) on every page. Next, have your child draw as many items as needed to match each number: one duck, two houses, three flowers, and so on. Bind the book with a staple and add it to your family library.
• Holiday newsletter. Would distant relatives and friends enjoy hearing your family’s news during the holiday season? Have your family members put together a newsletter about seasonal activities, trips, games, and other projects. Make sure to add illustrations.
Here are some more ideas of ways you can provide your children with fun activities and positive experiences, while creating treasured memories that will last a lifetime. (Click here to read part one of this article)
Play Idea Guide
Excerpted from Kick the TV Habit, by Steven and Ruth Bennett
Your family is a great team, even without team shirts and lots of expensive equipment. Here are some sports you can enjoy anytime.
• Pitching “quarters.” This is an adaptation of an old city sidewalk game. Each player throws a “quarter” (actually, a plastic lid or button) toward a wall. The one that lands nearest the wall wins, and the thrower keeps all the “coins”—until the next toss.
• Beanbag juggle. Would your kids like to join a homemade circus? Place half a cup of dried beans in a sandwich bag, tie the bag, then put the bag in an old sock. Tie the sock closed. Now you have a beanbag for juggling or just clowning around.
• Mini-golf wizards. Use boxes, books, and blocks to create an obstacle course (a hallway is the best location). Take turns rolling a light ball through the course to see who can get it to the other end in a single roll. Proclaim that person a “mini-golf wizard.”
• Spoonful of beans. Can the runners, hoppers, and crawlers in your home complete relay races while holding a spoonful of beans?
• Crazy mazes. Budding balance-beam gymnasts and tightrope walkers can hone their skills by walking along a piece of string or rope placed on the floor. For a real challenge, loop the “line” into an intricate maze.
• Cup catch. Tired of regular catch? Try playing it with Ping-Pong balls, using paper cups to hold them in (the ones with fold-out handles are great).
• Theme putt-putt. Create your own indoor miniature golf course with a theme. Use empty containers for “holes,” furniture for obstacles, and toys for scenery and props (dinosaurs, trees, etc.). Long cardboard tubes can be turned into putters, and use a soft ball instead of a golf ball to avoid damaged furniture.
• Indoor hopscotch. Remember chalking hopscotch grids on the sidewalk? Have your kids make an indoor version using craft paper (taped to the floor) and crayons.
Why not turn your home into a theater, and encourage the acting, singing, and other talents of your family “hams”? After all, everyone deserves his or her time in the spotlight!
• Vaudeville extravaganza. Organize a talent night, and let the singers, dancers, acrobats, mimes, musicians, and actors in your family strut their stuff. And after you’ve had your turn on stage, sit back and enjoy the show.
• Family theme song. Compose a song that captures the spirit of your family. Have everyone take turns contributing lyrics that describe family members, trips, activities, and so on. Then it’s time to perform it—you might even want to record the final version.
• Instant musical. Even if your family isn’t yet ready to perform, you can still translate a favorite story into dance. Cast a familiar tale, and have each family member choreograph his or her own role. Then clear some space and begin the show.
• Clown around. Gather some old hats, shoes, clothes, gloves, and makeup, and turn members of your family into circus performers. The greater your assortment of costumes, the more variety in your cast of clowns.
• A chorus line. How would your family like to practice the art form that made the Rockettes famous? Have your family stand in a line, and synchronize simple movements (turns, leg kicks, arm raising, etc.)
• Mystery monologue. Have your child pretend to be a storybook character and tell you a little about him- or herself. Other family members can ask questions about the character’s life and guess his or her identity.
• Fashion show. Do you have any cutting-edge fashion designers in your family? Have each participant pull together one or more interesting outfits. Then have family members take turns modeling and describing their creations.