“The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life.” –Richard Bach
Even if they’re fundamentally wonderful, the relationships we have with our kids must be constantly fed and nurtured. We must be present as much as possible in our children’s lives. If your children are splitting time between you and your ex, you’ll want to spend as much quality time with them when they’re in your custody.
Between juggling careers, crises, and personal responsibilities, such a project can wind up on the back burner. Use the following strategies to connect with your children more purposefully.
1. Eat one meal together each day.
As much as family culture has changed, a daily meal around the table still seems to be the best place for most families to stay connected. If you only have your kids part-time, share a meal every day you have them with you.
2. Have a “favorite” meal once a week.
Do your kids love Brussels sprouts and bacon? Mac and cheese? Pancakes that look like the characters from Spongebob? Some oddball traditional family treats? Maybe there’s a restaurant they love (ideally one that’s not just fast food)? Forge a tradition – a healthy, fun one that you can afford – and make it a staple of your weekly visits.
3. Daily prayer or meditation.
This ritual can take whatever form you’re comfortable with, but try taking 5-10 minutes a day to pray, reflect, meditate or express gratitude with your children. Not only does this act help pass your faith along, but moments like these can be particularly special with the kids.
4. Read to your children daily.
It’s a tried-and-true tradition: few things are more effective in bonding with your children than reading stories to them. Obviously, this works best with younger children, but do it until they outgrow it. (Or have them read to you once they’re farther along in grade school – this is pretty fun and relaxing.)
5. Make bedtime “face time.”
No matter how busy you are, tuck your children into bed and give them a few moments of your undivided attention. Make it count. Ask at least one fun or probing question: “What was the best part of your day today?” “If you could be any animal, what would you be?” They’ll enjoy the opportunity to delay “lights out” for a bit, and they’ll love the face time with you. (Just be sure to put a cap on it at some point, so they’re not exhausted the next morning.)
6. Plan a special outing once a month.
Let your imagination color your options: a day trip to a museum, a baseball game, a short road trip to a national park, a deep sea fishing trip … it can be anything really, just to get some special time away from home. Go on some adventures – things that you want to do as well. Because life is short, and time with your kids shouldn’t just be about babysitting them and finding ways to “treat” them while you’re left uncomfortable/bored/exhausted. Ideally, this special time should be something that you look forward to enjoying, too.
Establishing family rituals like the ones we’ve discussed takes discipline and practice, particularly at the beginning. But as Aristotle noted two millennia ago: excellence is a habit, not an act. Creating deep connections with your kids is less about surprising them with amazing gifts, having “big talks” about “important things” and engaging in other grand gestures. Instead, it’s much more about routinized positive experiences that come to define your relationship and your memories of one another.
If you’re facing a divorce or other family matter and you need help through the process, please contact the Law Offices of Silky Sahnan today at 925-276-0789 to schedule your confidential consultation.