If you are a parent – this is the most important thing you can do for yourself and your kids in 2014.
Today our lives are busier than ever, and in the last decade so many technologies and distractions have been created that parents are constantly challenged to ensure that they are able to spend adequate quality time with their children. Parents are distracted more than ever, and their children are distracted more than ever. Only 10 years ago life was different- we had fewer distractions… we had fewer things competing for our attention, and the attention of our children. We had fewer things that were able to invade and compete with our important, valuable time with our children.
Cellphones were much slower (and they weren’t “smart”, much less mini-televisions), our televisions were merely regular boxes and not multimedia units, and iPads did not exist. I laugh when I think about how I steadfastly refused to allow my kids to watch videos in the car. Back then we had to buy a separate unit for our minivan if we wanted to allow them to watch videos. Then the advent of in-car videos quickly came around. Now if they want (and if we allow), they can watch videos in the palm of their hands.
While for most teens and kids today, a decade ago may seem like the “Dark Ages,” even back then many parents (myself included) struggled to spend quality family time with their children, time that is specifically dedicated to connecting on a personal level with them and sharing important thoughts, ideas, life lessons, connections and fun.
Yes, we all have work, house chores, emails and other things we feel the urge to attend to first, so that we can provide the “best life” for our kids. But time goes by, and kids grow up… really, really fast. Before you know it – they move out. And we are not careful, we will have lost one of life’s most precious gifts- valuable time spent with what I view as one of the most important things in our lives – our children.
What is the best example – The song The Cats in the Cradle, a 1974 folk song by Harry Chapin. This poignant song is still so relevant today because it shows that even without the technology, parents had the same issues in the 1970s as they have today.
The song describes a father who is always working, and a son who wants to just be with his dad and spend time with him. But the dad misses the boat, Big Time. And in missing the boat, the dad teaches his son that his son was not as important to him as the other things that the dad had to (or wanted to?) do. The son learns this terribly unfortunate lesson, and is determined to grow up just like his dad. Eventually the boy indeed grows up, and he is too busy to spend time with his father later in life. We don’t really get an indication of whether or not the son spends time with his own son, but we can pretty much guess that he does not. How sad for all of them.
This great (though tragic) song is a perfect example of how we may misjudge priorities today about our kids and our time with them.
Developments in technology are speeding up very fast and this means that we may have even less time to influence our children in the years to come, unless we make a strong effort to counteract this tide. If you do not spend time with your children consistently connecting, then who will they want to grow up like? Who will they learn from? Who will connect with them?
Who can show them and explain what it is to be a good role model, a good human being, a good friend? Who will teach them how to earn (and deserve) respect and other important life lessons? How will they learn the importance of being connected, growing together and spending time together?
While it is not uncommon for parents to work very hard when their kids are small or in their teens, and then try to connect later in life after their children have grown up, that is typically way to late to try to establish such a connection. And of course it is way too late to help teach them life’s lessons.
This approach is the root of the problem, because 20 years later, you will look back and realize that your children have grown up without you and they are too busy for you now that you have the time to spend with them. And there is a decent chance that they will be stuck in the same cycle – they will be working too hard and not prioritizing spending time with their own children. This problem will not fix itself, only You can do it. It is you who must take the first step. And while it may not seem easy, it is actually easier than you may think.
Spending Time With Your Kids Consistently Will Make a BIG, BIG Difference
The first thing to do here is to deliberately spend some time with your child each and every day, and use the time in a very specific way. Every family has their own rhythm. So figuring out the best time is up to you. Some people find it easiest to do this at dinner time, others do it at bedtime. You need to figure out what works for you and your family, and each child. Keep in mind that the time that works in one particular month may not work in another month. And the time that works for one child, may not work for your other child. As soon as you notice that something has changed, be mindful to find replacement times right away. Do Not wait, or you will find yourself connecting less with your child. You will lose valuable, precious time that cannot be replaced. The years will fly by and it will be to0 late.
So, Spend the Time Wisely
There is no better time to change this cycle than now, and 2014 can be the year that you and your spouse have more effect on your children and connect with them in important, meaningful ways. Spend time on things that are important to them. This is the key here. Since you want specific result from these interactions- lessons, connections, love, laughter and more – when you spend time with them don’t just sit around. Try starting a discussion about things that are interesting to them. This will help you building effective communication and closer relationships with them. Build a connection bridge, that will help you later in life to talk to them whenever, and they will hear your message, instead of just brushing it off.
Relationship – the root of the word tells us that at a heart of any relationship, we need to have something in common. To relate. A good relationship is where both parties have things in common. We tend to like people that are like us. If you develop areas where you and your children have similar interests – you will feel a deeper bond.
Ask your kids questions. Do things that you both (or at least they) like. Spend time at a good meal, golf, shopping, skiing, indoor rock climbing, whatever they like (and hopefully you like as well). If you don’t like it, but it is something they really like, try to force yourself to like it, or at least act like it. Your efforts will be rewarded.
How do you know which questions to ask your kids? Ask them that question too; they will let you know. Find out where they want to see more of you or what they think they are missing. Even if your child is very young, is still so important to spend time together.
And if you feel like you are just too busy right now, and this goes on for more than a day or two, and you find that you aren’t spending the appropriate amount of time, and connecting in an appropriate way, don’t let that continue. As soon as you see yourself slipping, for whatever the reason, No Matter How Valid the reason, listen to the song the Cats in the Cradle again, so it can remind you why its so important not to say – I will do it tomorrow. Tomorrow fast turns into years later, and then it is Too Late!
Don’t let the relationship from that song happen to you. Your children need you, your wisdom and your love. They need to hear your voice. They need all that each and every day, even if it is only for brief periods on some days (and hopefully longer on many other days).
Do it for yourself, and most important, do it for the most precious things in your lives… your children.
What do you and your kids do to connect?
Please share below.