Last updated on Jun 17th, 2021 at 02:29 pm
The usual day-to-day demands of life are often enough to make any parent feel inadequate. Throw in “lockdown” and we might soon feel so overwhelmed that the ends of our sanity begin to fray.
Is “trying to get it all done” causing tensions to escalate in your home? Is the constant clamouring of “people in your space” threatening to push a usually happy family down a spiral staircase of frustration? You may be a surprised to hear the answer to this frustration is not more alone time, or some dreamy return to the normal we once knew. Instead it’s about learning to connect with our families in ways that are intentional, creative and much more meaningful.
Sure, your families are fed, clothed and safe; you spend a lot of time together by virtue of being locked up in the same space. But, are you’re connecting on a deeper level? You need to. It’ll relieve the stress of feeling pulled in a hundred different directions, ease the burden of guilt over not always giving your family the attention you know they need, and it will help create a happier, gentle atmosphere in your home.
There are many lovely ideas about how to go about doing this floating around at the moment. Again, this illustrates the desperate need for it. But, before getting to these, here ‘s what to do to make sure the “things you do” as a family are actually important to you and truly meet your needs for a more meaningful connection with one another.
Hold a family meeting
This may not sound very glamorous and Instagram worthy, but it’s the crucial first step. Start by sitting down with your children and having an open conversation about what they need from you right now. Talk to them honestly about your needs as well, and don’t forget to talk about some of the added responsibilities you might have during this time. We need to give our children the benefit of the doubt when it comes to understanding our adult responsibilities (within reason, of course). Use this conversation to explain why frustrations rise, what you as a family can do to prevent it turning ugly, and set goals that will help each family member feel like they have been heard and are being cared for.
Create a daily needs list
This leads to the second non-glamorous but important step in the process. Use the above conversation to make a list of everyone’s needs – the reasonable ones, that is. (Chocolate ice cream for breakfast is not a real need.) Write these out on a piece of paper and stick it on the fridge, or in a place where everyone can see it. This is not only a reminder for you, it will also show your kids their needs are being recognised and considered.
Let this list dictate which of the following ideas you implement; and have the courage to come up with your own ideas. (The kids will have plenty to share in this regard, trust me!).
We all know we can’t go to our favourite restaurants right now, so why not create a restaurant atmosphere at home? Get the kids to help set the table and write the menu – literally write it, decorate it and let each person place their order during the day. Involve the kids in the process all the way through. Cook the meal together. It might end up in a mess, but messes can be cleaned and the kids will remember it forever. If you can, try eating in a spot that is not your usual go-to for mealtimes, indoors or alfresco, because that adds to the memory of the time together.
This could be a weekly commitment and will give the kids something to look forward to. Cuddle up on the couch, grab some popcorn, push bed-time back a little, and watch a movie that everyone can talk about the next day. You can even turn it into a helpful tool for education by asking your children to take some time the next day to write about their favourite scene, or if they are too young to write, they can simply tell you about it over dinner, or draw a picture.
Get physical together
Use a rather predictable time in the day to do something physical with your kids; maybe just before bath time since they are likely to work up a sweat. Wrestle, give “piggy-back” rides, play horsey, tickle, kiss and cuddle, run races or see who can jump the furthest, measure how tall they are against a wall… Whatever you do, let them involve their little bodies in this particular playtime – and use yours too. It not only provides much needed physical exertion, and stimulates important movements for their growth and development, it also brings you into each other’s space in a way that builds trust and intimacy.
Enter your child’s world for a morning
Set aside a morning when you will allow yourself to be led by them in play. This doesn’t have to be every week, but do put it on the calendar so your kids have something to look forward to. Whether it’s building a fort, or pretending to be on a pirate ship, or holding a ballet recital, or doing a dance-off. Whatever it is, let them lead and let yourself go.
Talk/ read time
This must be a regular commitment, probably daily. I know that sounds daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. A few minutes before bed-time will suffice. Alternate between reading a story and letting them tell you about their day. What was new? Was there a favourite part of their day? Did anything make them sad (hopefully nothing)? Then take a minute to tell them what you heard in the story, or from them. This will help them feel like the story means something to you too and will validate their feelings – another very helpful way to build trust and a willingness to share openly.
Parents’ date night
Last, but by no means the least, is date night with your partner. Make sure the kids know when this will be. They can help you prepare by helping you get ready (maybe let them choose what you will wear), or making a card for the table, or deciding what music to put on the playlist. Then make sure they understand that this is “your” time. It may help to do this on a day when you have already spent significant time with them.
Make sure the kids are fast asleep, close your laptop, put your phone away, switch off the news, and spend some quality time with your partner.
Hopefully these ideas inspire some of your own creative thoughts or those of your children, and help you get to spend some meaningful time together.