In this busy world of drop-offs, weekend sports, late night homework and a hundred and one other tasks, many parents look forward to a break from the busy term-time routine to connect with their kids.
Yet taking the time to connect is often a challenge, and school holidays can often end up as a disappointing ‘disconnect’.
“We live in the age of ‘connection’ yet many parents feel disconnected from their kids because they are time-poor and school holidays give them a chance to complete other tasks,” says Nicole Pierotti, psychologist.
“All too quickly the holidays draw to a close and we haven’t achieved what we had intended, leaving both children and parents unfulfilled.”
Nicole says that rather than making grand plans to go on a round of excursions, movies and trips, to plan some ‘down-time’ that allows parents and kids to spend time connecting on real terms.
“Connecting is just about spending meaningful time together. The time where you really listen or just be together without jumping up to flip the dinner, feed the cat or hang out the washing,” says Nicole.
Just ten to 15 minutes is all we need to connect with our kids. “They won’t remember the washing, the meals, the tidying – but they will remember you sitting down with them and really listening to what they’re saying or sharing. Even if you have to work this school holidays and they need to go to vacation care, you can still spend some meaningful time together,” says Nicole.
Here are Nicole’s top tips to connect with your child this school holidays:
For younger kids: simply sit together and draw. Whether it’s scribbles for two year-olds, shapes for three year-olds, tracing for four year-olds and colouring in for school kids.
Grab the play doh, add a placemat and get stuck in. Try asking your child what they want to make and let them take the lead.
Cooking, for kids of all ages, is therapeutic, bonding, messy and fun. Let them choose what they want to make, buy the ingredients together, and don’t worry about the mess or whether it’s healthy. It’s about the journey, not the outcome. The end product is simply a bonus.
Dust off your board games: in the school holidays try to play a different board game every day, your teens will get into it and it’s an easy way to have a few laughs and interact. Plus it gets them out of their room. Just make a time to do it every day so they know.
Take in some fresh air and exercise outside together: whether it’s a run, walk, bike ride, taking the family pet around a few blocks. Find a great place to go that’s not really busy and enjoy being outside together. Teens certainly need exercise to help with all the good hormones.
Organise your house together: after breakfast, outline what the day will involve, part of any day can be to pull out some weeds, sweep the laundry, tidy the bathroom, toss out the newspapers – verbally give your teens a handful of jobs and ask them which they’d like to take on. Say what time you’re all starting and put on some music. Making teens responsible for general tidying and everyone getting in and doing it together gives them a sense of responsibility, an awareness that they’re contributing to their family.
Make car travel your connecting time, though you might have to ban the conversation-killer headphones on shorter trips. It’s a great place to talk as teens prefer it when you’re side by side and not looking into each other’s eyes. Connecting is simply spending time with your kids where all your focus, your eye contact and your attention is directed just at them. No other distractions. So make sure there are no electronics, no checking messages, turn devices to silent and be present in life with your child. Tell them beforehand it’s a ‘device free time’. This can be hard when you first start, but quickly you’ll feel the connection and love the time you spend together. Be sure to tell your son or daughter that you enjoyed your time together. Every child wants time with their parents and to be noticed.
For more craft and activity ideas visit pilotpen.com.au. Nicole Pierotti is a child psychologist and parenting expert. For further information, visit: www.babysmiles.com.au