This week’s guest post is from Cindy M. Knapp, MS, LMFT, RPT-S. We hope that you find it useful and look forward to future posts from Cindy.
A new year often suggests that we take note of where our lives are at. I wondered what parents had to say about resolutions they were making for themselves and their families for the coming year. I looked at a number of popular websites and read some other blogs. I found that there were common thoughts everywhere.
Most parents seem to feel pressured to DO more, or somehow to BE more. There’s a lot of unnecessary guilt because of expectations parents place on themselves. However, the theme that showed up most in my research is that most parents are longing to feel more connected to their partners and their children; to be closer.
Here are some simple ideas that might help you accomplish this goal, too:
1. HAVE MORE FUN TOGETHER.
- Take a few minutes after dinner one night a week and write down one idea from each family member of some enjoyable, small activity that she/he would like to do with the family in the coming week. Put the idea on the family calendar, no matter how silly it might seem. Then, make sure that you consider it as important as other things on the calendar (like doctor’s appointments) and have fun!
- Start “Single Kid Night” (or call it whatever you’d like.) If you have more than one child, you might rarely spend one-on-one time with them. Pick one night a week and set a time limit. An important part of this routine is that the child gets to pick what activity she or he wants the parent to do. You can set limits on options that are available. The family establishes that this time is not to be interrupted. This is easy to pull off if the other children understand that their time with the parent won’t be interrupted, either. If there’s more than one parent in the home, schedule “Single Kid Night” in a way that works best for you, but includes both parents spending time with each child.
2. ENCOURAGE FAMILY TOGETHERNESS THROUGH CONTRIBUTION.
- Cut down on chaos by establishing routines in which everyone works together to take care of the home. Okay, I know, “yawn.” Probably, no one is going to be excited to work with you on this one. However, children feel good when they make a contribution to the family. Keep it simple. For example, when parents are cleaning up after dinner, have the children help with a specific assigned activity. Use encouraging language to show that you value the child’s contribution. Here’s another idea: when you get out of the car, have all the children look around and pick up some things that need to be taken out. Yes, training the children to participate takes time, but it will help you feel less stressed and more connected if everyone is allowed to help.
- Look for opportunities to prompt siblings to do things for each other. Think of small things and encourage this often. Remember to include the younger child(ren) in doing things for the older ones. Teach the concept of how we need each other. Some examples: “I see your brother is struggling to do _____; I bet he could use your help.” “You are really good at ____ and your sister is trying to learn. Teach her, please.” Note that these are not in the form of questions. Your child can refuse, but the words suggest that we need each other.
3. TAKE SOME TIME OUT TO PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR PARTNER.
- Make it a priority to sit down and face each other, and check in about your day. If you don’t PLAN to do this and make it a daily ritual, it’s unlikely to happen. When you as parents work on your connection to each other, your children will see this and benefit from it. How you treat each other and the ways in which you make one another feel important and valued sets the tone for how your children act.
- Be your partner’s best friend. According to marital researcher John Gottman, committed couples who treat their partners like good friends have a stronger bond. In addition, you show your children behaviors you want them to learn.