I might be getting a bit ahead of myself here. After all, my only son is still a toddler and we still have a way to go before we (as in my lovely wife and me) start to feel alienated from his world. But as one would say, it’s only a matter of time and before you know it, you’ll be attempting to juggle up schedules and trying to negotiate the time you have left before your little one moves out.
But let’s not speed up to that part, shall we? Instead let’s look at ways how we can better connect with the apple(s) of our eye. The ironic thing is that during the early stages of our parenthood, we would have never thought of the need for a deliberate effort to try and connect with our kids. It is something that only assumes more importance as the kids start marking their territory and moving ahead in life.
I’m not of the opinion that you can only bond with your kid(s) over grand and expensive items. Sometimes all you need for the connection to happen is them and you. Before we go ahead, I’m going to offer some honest advice. I’m neither a parenting expert nor a trained child psychologist. Some of the things I’m about to say are not even applicable to me as a parent, until my little one grows up. So just think of it as my opinion. If you find something of interest in there, feel free to take it. If not, leave it.
So keeping that in mind, here are seven ways that I believe we as parents can connect with our rapidly growing child.
I know this is a bit of a hit and miss. Especially since most kids these days either don’t read, and even if they do, most of them prefer reading e-versions. However between all of us, I’m sure we’re still getting our kids to experience the joy that we knew of as a child – turning the pages of an actual book. And what better way to bond together than over a book. Support them as they read along and help them imagine those wonderful mythical and fictional characters take life and fly away. Set the right tone, and your kid(s) won’t even be able to wait for the “us” time that you’ve set up.
Let me put my hand up and say that the musical preference of each person can be different, even within the same family. But the point I need to make here is trying to have an open mind and spend some quality time together listening to something from both your era and theirs. It’ll give you something more to talk about and help you connect on a newer level.
For those who know me well, this will come as a surprise. But I am a firm believer on this point. And this is one point where even the age is no bar. I have two left feet and am always completely out of sync. My wife and some friends who have been unfortunate enough to have witnessed my dance moves (God bless them!) have mentioned that it looked like I needed to relieve myself. Having said that, I still bust a move or two in the comfort of my own home without the added peer pressure. And my son enjoys it. Apart from the fact that it makes him giggle (which may soon turn into an embarrassed laugh when he grows up), he too joins in when he hears or watches some really upbeat track on the TV or Radio. So dance my fellow parents. Dance away like no one is watching. (If your dance is as bad as mine, probably no one will be watching soon!)
Yes, I know. We should be advocating healthy eating and the likes. But who says healthy eating shouldn’t be fun? (Yikes, I just sounded like my nutritionist). Co-create an easy-to-make yet relatively healthy snack. And have fun while doing it. It could be a simple toast and peanut butter sandwich, but taking the effort to do it together really counts and it can be your special thing. With lots of things to juggle around in 24 hours, cooking a complete meal may not always be possible. This small gesture not only lets you spend some quality time together, but you could also impart some “handy kitchen-survival skills” for the future.
Meal at the table
Of all the people, I shouldn’t be preaching this. Because I love to watch the TV whilst I eat. Forget those manners of not talking while you eat; I love to have a discussion over dinner while watching the TV. For years, I thought it was a good way to bond, not just with your kid but also whoever you’re sharing the meal with. Unfortunately not. Taking a break and having a family dinner, with no TV, at the dinner table – bonding doesn’t get any better than that. Food is a magical thing. Most of the time, it aids not just as a conversation starter, but also helps interlink so many other topics. So if you do one thing today, make sure you eat at least one meal together at the table as a family. Of course, things like varied work hours and other extra curricular activities can throw a spanner in the works, but aim for it. It’ll pay its dividends soon.
When I mean play, I mean play. Even from something as silly as a board game to going out and playing a sport with them (if they let you join in) to having a go on the Xbox or PlayStation with them. It matters not if your console gaming skills are dreadful. It’s the act that counts. It promotes healthy competition and nurtures that feeling of camaraderie whilst giving them the confidence that they can win. That doesn’t mean you should let them though. The best part about this point is that it is quite likely that your kid will end up teaching you a thing or two, and they’ll love that! And if you can manage to join them outside, apart from keeping all of you fit, it’ll give you all a whiff of fresh air (well, as fresh as polluted air can be).
I’m not talking about school projects here. Well, those help as well. But rather helping your kid nurture a hobby or help him co-create something. It could be anything from a simple hobby such as collecting coins/currency notes to something more physical like planting a tree or a sapling. It could even be redecorating their room or your garage kind of project. It just needs to be something that you can collectively contribute towards. The only tip would be to indulge in something that you can see the end results for. Hence why projects are slightly better than hobbies for this step.
There you go. Now that wasn’t rocket science, was it? Feel free to add your tips and suggestions. After all, the more we share, the more we learn.
Sidharth Balachandran is a 30 something proud newbie dad who recently relocated back to India, after 7 years in London. He is a self-confessed techie, will-read-most-things-er, photograph-anything-er, love-to-travel-er and wannabe masterchef-er. He is the “carefree, relaxed and spontaneous” ying, to his wife’s “meticulous, practical and perfectionist” yangcharacter. Though academically an engineer and a product manager by profession, he strongly believes that eventually at some point his “creative” side will lead him to his true calling. He loves connecting with new people and you can catch him at www.facebook.com/sid.balachandran