It is 2:30 p.m. The door flings open as my three older children rush into the house in a frenzy. Backpacks, shoes, and socks fly off bodies at warp speed. They race into the kitchen devouring the first food they can find and collapse on the couch. It happens in a flurry. Sitting down on the couch next to them I lead with a question in hopes of making a connection. Some days I am met with warm affections, and other days not so much. I’ve found that establishing a plan of action to spend intentional time with each of my children is vital to keeping our relationships strong. As a parent of four children with different personalities, I’ve had to get creative. A one-size-fits-all approach won’t work. I’ve discovered four ways of intentionally connecting with my children that fosters depth in our relationships.
1. Scheduled Dates
Setting aside intentional time for a date with each one of our children has become routine practice in our home. This builds expectation and excitement for how we spend our time together. Conversations surrounding the details of our date include the places we will go, the types of food we will eat, and the things we will discuss. With multiple children in the family, we aim to get dates on the calendar for each child within the month. This builds trust and each child feels celebrated.
2. Impromptu Outings
Mothers knows that there are seasons when one child needs more TLC than the others. Intentional time with a parent is the salve applied to a flare up. And when situations like this arise in our family, we look for opportunities to provide that time of connection. We include that child into our everyday routine tasks. This may look like tagging along to the grocery store, getting the oil changed in the car, going on a walk/jog or returning books to the library. This intentional time together provides space to recalibrate and connect, reestablishing stability to the relationship.
3. Safety and Security at Home
Melt downs rarely happen at a convenient time. The witching hour in our house is around dinner time when everyone is hungry and needy, (including mom), and dad isn’t home yet. I’ve learned the hard way that the loudest yeller does not indicate the winner. When that happens, and believe me it has, everyone loses. Prioritize connection over tasks to accomplish because the dinner can always wait. That goes for the dishes too. In our family sometimes the intentional time with our children comes off the heels of discipline. After correcting a behavior it is vital to take the time needed to be with your child and provide them with the security that their tender heart is yearning for in that moment. I have also found it to be a security that my mother heart is longing for, too.
4. A Special Language of Love
A few years ago one of my twin girls asked if we could create a special system to say “I love you” that would be special between just the two of us. I loved the idea and together we decided on a rhythmic hand squeeze, similar to an SOS code, that communicated our love for each other. Turns out the other kids wanted a secret code of their own. As a result, each child and I now communicate “I love you” in our own language. In the midst of busy schedules, when intentional time with each child is harder to come by, this small point of connection communicates the big love that is shared between family members.
Consequently, when we commit to creating behaviors that we value, our children catch on quickly. Just yesterday my four year old daughter initiated a date with her daddy. The two older girls were at a birthday party and her brother had a friend over to play. She saw an opportunity. My husband and I were resting on the couch in the living room when she walked in to announce that it was the perfect time for daddy to take her on a date. She set a game plan and was ready to execute! My husband gladly said yes to her invitation and enjoyed a few hours of intentional connection time with his baby girl.