Emotionally Engaging Your Child, Even On Your Busiest Days

Does it sometimes feel like there just aren't enough hours in the day? As life gets busier, there's often little time left in the day to do the things that are really important, including emotionally connecting with your children the way you would like. Members of the Sandwich Generation like yourself may feel as if there has never been enough time to meet everyone's emotional needs. Your parents, relatives, your home, and your job all require a certain amount of your time and energy, leaving very little left for you, your partner, and especially your kids.

There are several simple ways you can give yourself time to engage your children. These six methods can provide your children with the attention they need to feel loved.

1. Unplug and Disconnect to Reconnect

As a society, we rely a lot on our electronic devices. Screen time is a part of daily life for people of all ages. When we use our devices during down time, however, we are missing out on valuable time we could be spending with the people we love the most. How many times have you been in the same room with your family while everyone is staring at a screen? Try unplugging to have a conversation, play a game, or even just watch the same movie. It'll feel nice to all enjoy the same activity for a change.

2. Eat Meals Together

For busy families, many meals are consumed on the go. Bring back the family dinner table by dedicating certain nights of the week to eating together at the table like a family. Whether home-cooked cuisine or take-out fare, the family will be able to connect emotionally while sitting face to face. Take turns talking about the day or try going around the table to share what makes each person feel grateful.

3. Use Car Rides as Opportunities to Listen

Children require an empathetic ear. Even though they may not know how to express their feelings in the same way as an adult, the feelings are still valid. Rides in the car to and from childcare, school, soccer practice, or to run errands are prime opportunities to ask children what's on their minds. It is important to listen carefully, validate the feelings, and avoid telling the child how they "should" feel. Eventually, trips in the car will become a place to connect naturally.

4. Find Time for Play

Have you ever wondered why many child therapists use play therapy as a breakthrough technique? The magazine Social Work Today explains the power of play as a way for children to experience the lost art of playtime while making it possible for adults to communicate with a child deeply on their own level. This method can be used in the home by incorporating even just 15 minutes of playtime with your children each day. You'll be amazed at how deep you will be able to travel into their minds just by simply watching them play and interacting with them in this state.

5. Compliment Good Behavior

On busy days, it's common to immediately notice when a child is acting up. When stress is already high, a tantrum is going to make you reach your boiling point even faster. Be mindful of your child's behavior and compliment good behavior often. Saying something as simple as "I am so proud of you for taking your muddy shoes off before you walked through the house" will let your child know you notice their good behavior as well as the bad. This will help increase self-esteem.

6. Take an Unexpected "Fun Day"

Everyone can use a day off once in a while. Instead of taking a sick day, take a personal day! Surprise your child with a day trip for just you and them to enjoy. The ideal "fun day vacation" would be taking part in an activity or visiting a place you will both enjoy.

Bonding is important to any parent/child relationship, and having a day off away from stress or enjoying a simple dinner together may be just what you need to reconnect emotionally.

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