Building connections with your children

Sometimes connecting with your child means you have to learn all about Spider-Man — even if you don’t like Spider-Man.

by Brittany Gilbert

Humans crave connection. Even the most introverted person desires meaningful relationships. Key word: meaningful. Our children are no different. 

It can be difficult to connect with our kids on a meaningful level because we don’t always know how to connect, or perhaps, we’re doing it wrong. Connecting with your kids is so important. It’s this connection that builds trust and a genuine relationship that will last through childhood, adolescence, “those” teen years and in to adulthood. You WANT that lasting connection. 

Don’t underestimate the small things.

For most kids, simply taking an active interest in what they are interested in will make them feel more connected.

Our oldest is obsessed with Spider-Man. Everything has to do with Spider-Man, and he is constantly talking about it. To be honest, Spider-Man has always been my least favorite superhero. However, if I tune out my child while he talks about Spider-Man, I might as well not speak to my child all day. If I want to connect, I must get involved in what he’s doing, and right now, he is passionate about becoming Spider-Man. So, we read the stories, act out the plots, wear the costumes, run around the house. I listen to his ideas and ask questions (this is important, too). He knows he can come to me, and I will listen. 

Can you see how this will come in to play later on when he has something truly important to say?

Recently, our family has started reading aloud more. This is an obvious thing to do when your kids are really small and learning to read, but don’t let it stop there. When your kids are bigger and able to read on their own, continue to read aloud as a family. We listen to books on Audible when driving around town, and I can’t tell you how much joy it brings to hear my kids cackling over The BFG, and then the conversations we’re able to have after all listening together is just priceless. 

At home, we read both classics and more modern literature together and are able to have really great conversations. I’m hoping to instill a love of reading and the thoughtfulness to ask questions at a young age while also bonding over these great stories. 

Invite them to share your interests. Do you like to garden? Workout? Cook? The list is endless, and you see where I’m going with this, but your kids can do these things, too! Prepare to make a bigger mess than normal (if kids are small). It may take a little longer than if you do it on your own, but, the payoff could be huge. Not only are these basic life skills that kids need to appreciate, but sometimes kids become open books when they’re bonding over something they enjoy and are with someone they trust. Things they may not be willing to share in the hurried bedtime routine will suddenly spew out of them because they are relaxed and they feel important. 

Learn something together. A friend of mine has older girls who have expressed an interest in learning the violin. As a way to connect and share something with her kids, she is learning alongside them. She knows it will be difficult. Music doesn’t come naturally to her, so they will see her truly humbled and diligent in working to improve this area that she’s never tried to master. This same friend learned how to sew when her kids fell in love with “Little House on the Prairie” and wanted pioneer dresses. Her words were, “I want my kids to look back and say, ‘We had fun WITH our parents.’” 

Connecting with your children will be a lifelong skill to practice. The saying is true that if you don’t show an interest in your child, someone else will. Technology will occupy them, friends will become more important than you, or attitudes may get out of control because they feel de-valued or in the way. I truly don’t think that connection is lost because parents want it to be — I think it’s because we don’t realize how much work it can be to keep. 

Our toddlers are obsessed with us, but that fades and is replaced by school-aged kids who desperately want our attention, but lose it because we don’t want to talk about Spider-Man all day. There will be a time when we can teach them the importance of sharing interests (see above), but there’s also times to put on the Spider-Man mask and PLAY.

Brittany Gilbert