As moms, we all want to have a close, connected family—a picture perfect family, if you will. Unfortunately in today’s world, connecting with our kids is often easier said than done. Last week, I shared a few ways that we can be deliberate about connecting with our children, such as creating family traditions and starting a mother-daughter journal. Today, I’d like to talk about a few obstacles to connecting with our kids and how we can overcome those.
When we’re going through hard times, it’s often hard to connect with others. Pain can make us turn inwards rather than outwards, especially when those around us just require more from us.
I know that when I’m overtired, depressed, or otherwise struggling emotionally or mentally in some way, it’s hard to connect with my kids. I find myself losing my patience and getting angry more easily. Unfortunately, they don’t know that I’m not really angry at them but at something else going on in my life.
If you’re going through personal struggles, take care of yourself. That old saying about the oxygen masks on the plane is always true. You can’t fill your child’s love tank if your own tank is empty. Give yourself some self care, whether that means going to bed early, having a bath, booking a massage, or calling a friend.
Don’t ignore your own physical or mental health. Your kids need a mom who is happy, healthy, and whole. If necessary, explain to them that Mommy is really tired or not feeling well or grieving a loss and needs some time and help. If you can, find ways to connect with your kids while filling your own needs too, like cuddling on the couch and watching a movie together.
“How are you?” “Busy.”
That seems to be the reality of modern life. We’re all busy. Most of the time, we’re busy with good things—kids’ activities, hobbies, volunteering, work, church, friends, etc. Unfortunately, this busyness can also come between families.
My husband and I spent the weekend of our twelfth anniversary running our kids around. Our oldest two daughters had the wrap-up for their musical theatre class, so they had two rehearsals and two shows in three days. It was also the end of rugby season, so they had a year-end game and a team party. They also had their monthly recital and Sunshine had an orchestra audition. Hubby and I didn’t even go to Mass together on Sunday!
Are you so busy that you don’t have time to eat together as a family? Do you spend your time with your kids running them to their next activity?
The transitions in the school year are a good time to assess current activities. I like to look back on our year and what the girls did and whether it worked or not. Did I put them in too many activities? Did they get bored because we weren’t getting out enough? What should they do next year?
As our kids get older, this gets harder, because they have their own interests. I’ve tried to keep many of our activities close to home—what can we walk to or drive within ten minutes? Obviously, this will depend on where you live. We also use the “commute” as a chance to talk or listen to audiobooks together.
I also try to get my kids into similar activities at the same place and the same time. For example, Sunshine takes violin lessons and Lily piano, but they both do lessons at the same music school at the same time. I have to drive across town to get them there, but it’s one trip instead of two. (It also usually turns into a one-on-one date for Jade and I, as her younger siblings nap during the lessons!)
Take a look at your schedule to see if it’s drawing you together as a family or pushing you apart into too many activities. How can you reduce the busyness and increase connections?
Smartphones and Social Media
Ah, the wonders of modern technology to connect us—or disconnect us. There have been plenty of memes on social media about moms on their cell phones at the park, instead of playing with their kids. I’m not here to point fingers. I’ve been that mom.
Sometimes, they need to get out of the house but the park bores me to tears. Or I have no energy left to deal with the chaos at home so we go to the park, but I really just need a break and the phone affords that while the playground entertains them.
Smartphones and social media can be good. And they can be bad. Like the busyness of our lives, we need to strike a balance. I’m not going to tell you when and how to use your phone, or to say that your kids should never see you checking Facebook. That’s something each of us needs to decide as a mom.
I do know we need to be present with the person we’re physically with, instead of a phone or an acquaintance on social media. I try to get my blogging done during the day so that evenings can be family time or time to spend with my husband.
Take a look at your social media use. Does it distract you from your work as a mom? Do your kids complain that you’re spending too much time on your phone? Does what you see on social media encourage you as a mom or does it make you feel inadequate? What could you change to make it better?
What makes it hard for you to connect with your kids? How do you overcome that?