12 Fun and Frugal Ways to Connect with your Children
My older two are 13 and 14 now (I have a son who is 1 and a newborn daughter too plus an 8 year old stepdaughter overseas).
One of the comments we get a lot from their friends, teachers and others is how close we are.
Recently, I’ve been asked more about what we do, how we are close and for some tips for others.
It most definitely is not about what you buy them, how many gifts they get or the size of your house!
Disclosure, this post may contain affiliate links to products and services I use.
1. Gratitude and Compliments Every Night
We eat dinner as a family and every night we each say 3 things we are grateful for as well as give each other a compliment.
They think about these things all day plus since we are complimenting each other they are looking for good throughout the day instead of everything being negative.
2. Family Night
Once a week we do a family activity. It started off when I first became a single mother but has continued now and they look forward to it all week.
Their friends comment on it and wish they had it.
Currently, their favourite family activity is dinner or treats on the beach in the evening until midnight.
We don’t have a fire or anything, often it is just relaxing together, talking, walking and enjoying the quiet of the beach when no one else is there.
3. Know Their Love Languages
For every relationship, it is easier if you know the other persons love language.
As an example, Acts of Service is my strongest love language.
So people doing things for me makes me feel loved. My eldest is Gifts, when she is given something she feels loved.
My youngest is Physical Touch and Quality Time. Spending time with just her, lots of hugs etc makes her feel loved.
Knowing their love language, you can do things that make them feel loved. Them knowing yours can help a lot too.
My kids know mine is Acts of Service so they are more than willing to help around the house as they know this means more to me than buying a gift.
4. Turn the Radio off in the car
It is amazing how much kids open up when it is safe to do so.
With the radio off in the car, they can talk to you but you can’t react as much since you also have to drive.
They don’t have to maintain eye contact and can talk a little more freely and open up.
My kids know they can talk about anything with me and the conversations we’ve had in the car have been truly amazing.
Even if the radio is on when they get in, they know they can switch it off to talk.
I started doing this when they were little and it has made a huge difference to their lives.
Especially now as teenagers, the ability to go for a drive or talk about whatever they want wherever we are going is beneficial for their mental health and our relationship.
5. One On One Time
This is one of the most important things with my kids.
Getting their own one on one time with me.
Being part of a blended family and having grown up in one, I have been conscious of my kids not feeling replaced by my partner.
They each get some one on one time with me.
Sometimes we do our nails or skincare, other times we go for a walk along the beach or we might just sit at the table and do some art.
Whatever they want to do, we do.
6. Surprise Treats
Treats don’t need to be expensive. It could be taking one kid with you to get a Slurpee for $1 and just hang out.
Maybe playing their favourite video game with them or buying them a treat in the groceries.
Something which shows you are thinking about them.
7. Cook And Eat Together
Each week we get HelloFresh. My kids pick a recipe they want to try from it and cook. We sometimes let them do it themselves, other times we cook one on one.
They talk a lot when we do it and take pride in having cooked themselves. Plus they are learning life skills.
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We also use Pinterest, free magazines and Google for other recipes. Each night the table is set, we eat together and do grateful as mentioned in number 1.
8. Massage or Back Scratch
When my kids were young, I used to sing them a song and scratch their backs or give a little massage as part of the bedtime routine.
As they got older and I had health issues, this stopped. So now it is an occasional thing but they love it.
Physical touch is less than than ever before and in many ways, we are all starving for it, including your kids.
When they are little they run to you, hug you, want to be near you all the time.
As they get older, this reduces, they become more independent but it can also be a reaction to you.
How open and available are you as they grow up? They learn from a young age if you’re on your phone all the time or too busy, that they need to look after themselves.
Then as they get older, their desire to be around you is less and less not only because of age but also because that is what they have learned from you.
9. Sunday Breakfast
A cooked breakfast one day a week where we don’t have to rush off and can enjoy the morning has been amazing.
Sometimes they put in requests such as pancakes, other times it is veggies, beans, eggs etc.
Either way, cooking it together and sitting down to eat together is enjoyable, relaxing and makes them feel loved.
Scheduling special time like this as a family is important for everyone and has benefits for your mental health.
It doesn’t need to be long or elaborate but it does need to be consistent.
This combined with Friday Family Fun Night and aiming to have our dinners together as a family each night helps keep us close.
10. Holiday Traditions
Every Valentine’s Day my kids get a chocolate rose along with a letter from me sharing what I love about them, special memories from that year and proud moments.
At Christmas, we do an advent calendar that has an act of service on it for each day.
They get a lolly or chocolate too but the acts of service makes each day a little special and gives more meaning to Christmas.
11. Let Them Be Themselves
Instead of shutting down all their ideas, telling them they are wrong or brushing them off, take time to listen.
Talk through their problems with them, or more correctly, let them talk and ask if they want help or advice or just want to vent.
We don’t all want to be told what to do or have our problems fixed all the time.
Sometimes we just want to vent and have someone we can safely say whatever to without them telling us what to do.
Make it a safe space. Let them talk to you in private if they want.
My kids both know if they want a conversation with only me, they can request it and I will stop whatever I am doing to listen and discuss if they want.
They also know if either one of them is having a talk like this, the other one needs to give us space.
Think back to when you were their age or facing similar issues, what did you want from your parents?
Treat your kids how you wanted to be treated or supported and it makes a world of difference.
Remember, things that are huge issues to them at their age might not be in the scheme of things, but it matters to them so it should matter to you.
12. Have Clear Boundaries
You are their parent, not their best friend. Being open, having good communication and fun is important.
So is having clear boundaries and consequences for their actions.
I’m not saying be super strict, in fact, I don’t have a lot of rules.
But the rules I do have they understand and know not to push it.
It means they also know if I say no, there is a good reason.
What’s funny is I am viewed as a strict parent because my kids know that no means no and not to ask again.
Yet they also don’t recall me ever having strict consequences to things as they so rarely pushed things and instead stuck to the rules.
They respected the rules due to the connection we have and the fact they know if I say no, there is a good reason.
And often I explain that reason but if I can’t at the time, they know they can ask later.
Any rules I set are logical and easy for them to understand so it has made sticking to them easy as well.
Being A Fun Parent
For the most part, being present is enough. So many kids are not connected with their parents, don’t have dinner as a family and instead do their own thing.
They are watching screens all the time, reheating dinner and feel their parents are too busy.
Kids constantly say how much they wish their parents would spend some more time with them, listen to them, be at their important events.
What is important to them at their ages might not be important to you but it stays with them when you miss it.
All those small events and moments add up. It’s not about one big gesture, it’s about being there consistently and fully present.
At my kids old school, I was one of the few parents who spent a lot of time at the park with the kids.
Because I did, other kids were able to play together and some days I had 20 odd kids there.
Some came because they just wanted an adult to talk to.
Over time, they invited me to their concerts, told me about their sporting achievements etc.
The feedback was consistently they wished their mum/dad paid as much attention or came to the events.
I know work sometimes prevents, and I know we lead busy lives.
Switch off the phone and TV so you can be a little more present.
Choose a day to have one on one time with the kids, even if it is only 30 minutes to an hour. These things matter.