Parenting is no small feat, and connecting with your child can seem really confusing and even daunting if you don’t know where to begin. This list of five ways to connect with your child aims to give you some starting points, as well as habits that, if performed daily, could strengthen your relationship with your kids.
#1 STRIVE FOR 6 HUGS A DAY
Many children thrive on physical affection! And it may seem silly, but sometimes dads get so “busy” that they forget about the little things, like hugs, kisses, tender touches, hand holding, etc. Striving for six hugs (or any form of physical touch/interaction) each day will not only ensure you are making a good attempt at meeting your child’s needs, but it may also help you to be more mindful of how you’re interacting with your children. And as an added bonus, new research from the University of California suggests that hugging has a regenerative effect on human males, making them more affectionate and better at forming relationships and social bonding. If you have teens who aren’t big on affection these days, remember that playful wrestling or simply placing your hand on their arm can send the same message as a full embrace might.
#2 ASK YOUR CHILD, “WHY” … A LOT!
Part of connecting with your child is learning what makes them tick. The easiest way to make sense of their actions, opinions and ideas is ask them the question, “why?” For example, you ask your kid how their day was, depending on their age, gender and general willingness to open up, they might just respond with the classic one-word response (e.g. ""Fine"" or ""Good""), but if you probe a little and ask them why it was fine or good, you just might be able to connect with them. Keep in mind that sometimes ""fine"" is all they want to offer, and be OK with that. Your goal as a parent isn’t always to force info out of them, it’s to make sure your children know that when they’re willing to talk you will be ready to listen.
#3 ALWAYS TUCK THEM IN AT NIGHT
Tucking a child in at 16 years old looks way different than at 2 years old, but if you make a conscious effort to be engaged with your child every single night you won’t regret it. Use the time to reinforce how much you love your child and how proud you are of them for any accomplishments that day, to practice a religious ritual like a nightly prayer or even to snag one of those hugs we recommended in #1 above. All children need the reassurance that comes from routine and habit – yes, even those moody teens – and what better routine than sending them off to sleep with love.
#4 INSIST ON FAMILY DINNERS
A great place to engage in casual conversation with your children is over a meal at the dinner table. Institute a ‘no devices at the table’ rule (this means for you too, Dad) and spend the time chatting and engaging with each other. Use this opportunity to ask them about their day, and to pepper them with “why” (see #2 above). This can also be a great time to play some simple games together. One dinnertime game favorite is calling out a category and trying to come up with words that fall under the category in alphabetical order. For example, someone says, “Animals … A” and everyone takes a turn guessing animals that start with A and then you move on to letter B, C, D ... you get the picture.
#5 TAKE A SELFIE
Our children are ruled by technology these days. And while it may seem silly or obnoxious to us, they are living in a world where “hearts” and follows are really important to their social status. Instead of eye-rolling their behavior, engage with them in it; ask to take a selfie together, photobomb them, do a face swap with them (if you don’t know what this is and your child is over 10 years of age we bet they can fill you in). What’s the worst that could happen? Laughter is a sign of happiness, even if they’re laughing at you – and think about the great photographic memories you could capture while you’re at it!
This post is part of our #FathersTrust content series