Connecting with Your Kids: The Secret Sauce
by Sarah Anderson
In Georgia, we’re approaching the 100th day of school. This being the first year where we have a child in school, this is a big milestone. Not necessarily for our kindergartener, but for us, his parents. School, as turns out, is no joke. I am still waiting on my body to figure out how to be a morning person.
Wake up time aside, the adjustment to having a child in school is a big one. We’ve entered a realm of parenting that has taken, well, 100 days to get used to.
But the biggest change in our family has been our need to be more intentional.
Before school, connecting with our boys was a breeze. They were with us all the time, and when something came up that needed to be addressed, it could be done immediately. If we felt like one of our boys was out of sorts, we figured out a way to connect quickly. But these days, quick and immediate don’t seem to happen. Now, planning and purpose are necessary.
Just a couple of weeks into school, we got in the habit of taking Asher to a coffee shop once in a while for this very reason. We thought, “What better way to connect with our boy, than over a latte (for me) and some hot chocolate (for him)?!?” Seemed like a great idea. That’s how I like to catch up with people and where my best conversations happen. Wouldn’t it be the same for a six-year-old?
Wrong. After school, my son was not in the mood to spend more time sitting, in a chair, at a table, talking. He’d much rather prefer “having time to be silly” as he told me.
But that left my husband and me with some roadblocks because Asher is a kid who processes internally and who has a lot going on beneath the surface. So, in order to really get to the heart of him, we had to get creative. A coffee shop wasn’t cutting it.
Then last week, after another failed after school trip for a peach smoothie, my husband spent some time in Asher’s room building Legos with him. They tackled Star Wars figures, dragons, and snakes and, in the process, something happened.
Asher began talking. As he intently focused on finding the right pieces and following the numbered instructions, he opened up. He volunteered insight into his day, into frustrations he was feeling, but also things that were making him happy.
It was an “aha” moment for us. Legos, or playing with him, was the secret sauce.
Consequently, here’s what we’re figuring out: As life changes, our kids change. What can feel like them pulling away from us can actually just be them maturing and growing up. They aren’t looking to shut us down necessarily; they are inviting us to try harder. To find the way to connect with them in a new way, when the old way isn’t working anymore.
We would be foolish to take every failed attempt to connect as a rejection. We would be wise to use it as a springboard to encourage us to try something new. To get creative. To figure out a different way to reach the heart of our kids.
They aren’t shutting us out, they’re creating new pathways for others to know them. And we get to be the trailblazers.
Maybe a new season of life has left you scrambling, feeling like you don’t know your child anymore. Don’t give up on them. And don’t give up on yourself. To figure out what the secret sauce is for you and your child, ask yourself some questions:
Parenting is going to keep us on our toes. And it should. If we feel like we are always playing catch up with our kids, it’s okay. Because it means we’re in it, we’re still going after them. It’s worth the effort to pursue the hearts of your kids—for lots of reasons, but for us that includes the money we’re saving on lattes.
About the Author:
Sarah Anderson is a writer and communicator who has been involved in ministry since 2003. She is a lead writer and content creator for Orange's XP3 High School curriculum. Sarah lives in Roswell, Georgia, and is a big fan of her husband, Rodney, her two boys, Asher and Pace, and, in her weaker moments, McDonald's French fries.
Create a Rhythm
by The Parent Cue
It’s moving fast.
We will never have more of it than we already have.
So the issue is not how do we get more, but how do we become more intentional about what we have?
How can we manage our time strategically to parent beyond our capacity?
How about taking a look at your family rhythm? Every family has one. Rhythm is how we arrange our time. As we go from day to day, we establish and shape a rhythm that in turn shapes our kids.
Rhythm establishes value. Things that become part of the daily rhythm are the things our families will come to believe are most important. Rhythm silently but significantly communicates value.
There are some things that may be conceptually very important to us as parents, but if we never include them in our families’ rhythms, our kids will perceive them as having little value. For example, exercise might be important to a parent in principle, but if no one ever plays baseball in the backyard, takes a trip to the park, throws a Frisbee, jumps on a treadmill, or heads to a soccer field, why would the kids come to value exercise? If it’s not part of their rhythm, it’s not part of their reality. The same is true for faith. If you want to instill an everyday faith in your kids lives, you have to incorporate faith in the daily rhythm.
Every family rhythm is different, but on a basic level, everyone wakes up, eats, travels, and sleeps. In Deuteronomy 6, Moses taps into this natural rhythm when he encourages his people to nurture lasting faith in their kids. “Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”
He was essentially saying, if you are going to impress these truths in the hearts of your children, you will have to be more deliberate about creating a rhythm within your home.
So think your family’s weekly rhythm. What does it look like?
Which nights do you tend to eat together?
What do you do when you first get home from work?
What is your nighttime routine to get ready for bed?
What do you do every Saturday morning?
How do you spend Sundays?
What can you do this week to be more intentional in your interactions with your kids during those moments?
Parents have an advantage when it comes to the issue of time. At least until your children are old enough to drive, you have a window of opportunity to maximize a relationship with your children by the way you handle time. The time you spend together as a family should be both interactive and intentional. When both are true, you increase the capacity and influence of your time with your kids.