By Amanda Idleman, Crosswalk.com
Life as a parent is FULL and even more than that it’s demanding. One-on-one time with our kiddos can be hard to come by. While our intention may be for our kids to feel fully loved each and every day, this can be a hard task to actually accomplish. And little ones need more than just the words "I love you" to fully grasp the concept.
The reality is we have to be intentional about connecting with our kids on a daily basis.
Here are a few simple ideas on how to connect with your kids so they know they are loved by you.
1. Read Together
I’ve never met a kid that doesn’t love when you sit with them with a pile of books! This activity works for kids of all ages. Babies need the nurture and closeness that snuggling together with a pile of books brings. Toddlers soak up all the words you are offering with their hungry growing brains.
Kids are mesmerized by the tales a good book introduces them to. Even older kids can enjoy reading through a chapter book or devotion with their parents. This shared experience of enjoying a book offers a way to connect with your kids at any age.
2. Show Them They Are Loved at Bedtime
Bedtime is a chance to catch a breathe together as a family. Even if everyone has been out and about doing entirely different things all day long, you still all share the fact that you rest your head to sleep under the same roof.
Stick to a bedtime routine that sets aside a moment to speak individually with each of your children. Devote time to nightly tucking them in, offer them hugs, ask them about their day, and pray over them before they close their eyes.
There is nothing more important for your kids than ending the day hearing, feeling, and seeing that they are loved.
3. Play a Game Together
For the Momma’s with young ones, I just want to tell you that there will be a day that you can sit down with your kids and play fun games all together at the kitchen table. It will be wonderful!
If you have young ones the precursor to playing games you enjoy is engaging in the games they enjoy. Stacking blocks, scribbling pictures, shoving together chunky puzzle pieces, or lining up rows of toy cars.
For me it was a struggle to enjoy those more mundane interactions when my kids were little but I’m thankful for them because they were the foundation to the closeness I enjoy with my kids now.
For Momma’s with older ones, bring back the board games or even some good old card games. You seriously can buy a deck of cards at the Dollar Store and google a million cards games to test out at home. While our tech-loving kids may protest sitting down to play a screen-free game chances are they will quickly fall in love with these unhurried moments spent together.
There is nothing like a little friendly competition, problem-solving, and uninterrupted time together to build the bond you have with your kids.
4. Cook Together
Cooking dinner can for many parents be a dreaded time of day. Most of us are doing everything we can to busy our kids away from us so we can get food on the table. If you are up for embracing a little mess, this can be a great time to work in some one-on-one time with your kiddos.
My advice is to start small (so as to not lose your mind while attempting this) and let your kids get their hands dirty in the kitchen by your side.
I have a newly turned 3-year old who loves to “help” so I’ve had to get creative on how to include her. Some ideas that have worked well for us have been letting her “wash” the dishes in the sink while standing on a chair, allowing her to stir baking mixes or add in the ingredients after I measure, or allowing her to help set the table.
My older son who is almost 6 also loves being in the kitchen with me. He is able to chop vegetables, season dishes, stir ingredients on the stove, retrieve and measure ingredients for recipes. He loves to announce how he “cooked” parts of our dinner to the family. I love seeing the confidence, pride, and joy he gains from being able to help in this important daily task.
5. Wake Up with Hugs
Start your day saying “I love you” to everyone in your family and generously give out hugs each and every morning. Don’t let your kiddos leave the house without hearing that you love them, no matter what their age! My oldest son is no longer small and snuggly but he still expects a hug each morning from me and tenderly replies with a “love you too Mom.” His sincere reply makes my heart smile.
It’s important that we don’t buy into the mindset that our kids get too old for hugs and affection. Even as an adult I relish hugs and “I love yous” my parents dole out for me. Feeling loved never gets old.
6. Share Meals Together
Even if your not a great chef, carve out time to share a family meal with your kiddos. You are able to connect over homemade delicious feasts and store-bought pizzas just the same! There is something powerful about breaking bread together and committing to a routine that makes time to eat together.
This simple practice helps affirm to your kids that they are a priority and is a simple way to communicate to them that they are loved. I’m not sure what makes eating together so special, it may just be because you can’t do too many other things while you stuff your face! Meals are a time when conversation usually starts to pour out.
It’s a chance to reflect on the day, ask how everyone is feeling, and it’s usually a pretty distraction-free space!
7. Plan Special “Dates” with Your Kids
One-on-one time with your kids is when they really open up in new ways! My oldest is so very talkative. We love how open he is with his thoughts but he leaves almost no room for his younger siblings to get a word in edgewise. This is why when we get our quieter middle child alone he talks SO MUCH!
Being together is a family is great but as your kids grow and mature personalized outings are a great way to give them the space to really more deeply share their hearts with you. Connection equals love for our kids. The more time we carve out to connect individually with our kids the more loved our kids will feel.
A friend of mine tries to take each of her kids on the date of their birthday each month. I try to rotate running errands or making grocery trips with each of my kids. It doesn't have to be big, it just needs to be one-on-one.
8. Sit Down to Watch a Movie Together
If you are like me, I almost always utilize screen time when I want to keep my kids occupied away from me. It’s an “easy” babysitter when you are in a pinch! Movies can be more than a distraction though, they can be a way to connect, relax, and make memories together.
A few weeks ago my boys invaded me on the couch when they were supposed to be going to bed. I decided to give in and we choose a nature show for us to watch together. I made some popcorn, got all the cozy blankets out, and we learned about bears together before bedtime. We all loved it. I loved seeing their faces of amazement as they learned about God’s creation. They loved eating popcorn and being together on the couch past bedtime.
For me, I think this was a really valuable deviation from our normal because SO MUCH of my time with my kids is spent is directing their days, teaching them, disciplining them, and just being busy. My boys loved laughing with me and I needed that time to be reminded that being a Mom is more than work, it should be fun too!
9. Help Them Practice Learning a New Skill
When our kids are young this comes so natural! We cheer on their first rolls, crawls, and steps with enthusiasm. As they grow it can become more challenging to invest that same time and energy in joining in their learning. Even as they get older they are still looking for our praise and validation.
Bring out the soccer ball to practice dribbling the ball around together, review those pesky math facts together, or sit and watch when they rehearse those new dance moves. Whatever it is they are into carve out space in your schedule to be apart of it with them. Your undivided attention given to helping them progress is a great way to let them know they are loved.
What our kids need most to feel securely loved is time. Just us making it a priority to consistently check in with them goes a long way in growing secure humans. More than anything else we can gift our kids, our willingness to hear and see them at each stage of their life makes the biggest difference.
If we observe one of our kids struggling then there is a good chance they need a little more of us than what we are giving at the moment. Evaluate your time together and see where you can make changes to create more togetherness between you. You showing up will be sure to let them know that they are really loved!
Amanda Idleman is a writer whose passion is to encourage others to live joyfully. She writes devotions for the Daily Bible Devotions App, she has work published with Her View from Home, also for the MOPS Blog, she is contributing to a couples devotional for Crosswalk, and is a regular contributor for Crosswalk.com. You can find out more about Amanda at rvahouseofjoy.com or follow her on Instagram at rvahouseofjoy.
Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Alvin Mahmudov