Relationships and “bonds” are in large part formed through time spent together and shared experiences. When you have a new baby, a toddler, or even a preschool-age child, you naturally spend a lot of time with him or her. These kids need you to feed them, bathe them, and nurture them; and for the most part, their little worlds always include you.
As these little people grow into “real people,” they begin to have school, extracurricular activities, and drop-off play dates and parties. Their little world begins to include you less and less. All of these developments are quite positive things, as we want our children grow up and eventually lead lives separate from ours. But as my boys inch closer to this independence, I have found myself still desiring a “close” relationship with them. I want to connect with them and experience adventures alongside them, not just watch from the sidelines.
I remember when my oldest learned to read independently, and I was so proud to see him diving through a new book like I used to at his age. Then it dawned on me: I had spent thousands and thousands of hours with him in my lap or curled up next to me as I read stories to him. I loved that special time spent together, both of us giggling at the story line or guessing together what monster was hiding on the next page. I still wanted to have those moments with him — and with all my boys!
Here are a few tips I have learned to foster bonding with my bigger kids.
Make the time.
I literally sit down with my calendar at the beginning of the month and I write in activities to do with my boys, sometimes one on one and sometimes with the four of them. I have found that, like anything else, if you don’t make time together a priority, it will slip through the cracks.
Limit your extracurricular activities.
This one is huge for our family. While there is nothing wrong with extracurriculars, they are almost always individual activities and they can take up a massive amount of time. We pick an “off season,” and during that off season we use the dates that would have been practice or a Saturday game and make time to do family activities or one-on-one activities with the boys.
Find common interests with your child.
I mentioned how I loved to read to my son when he was little and how I wasn’t quite ready to lose that experience with him once he learned to read on his own. So, I began introducing him to books I loved at his age, and I would re-read them and we would talk about what happened. It was like our own little book club. We even went to see several plays together after reading the books first.
Put yourself in their worlds.
Show up at their school for lunch with them, coach their soccer team, or be their scout leader. Let them pick an adventure to go on or a place to travel to together. Even though their world has expanded, it still matters to kids that you are a part of their world.
While relationships grow and change, the one between mother and child will always remain valuable and worth the investment.
What tips do you have for bonding with big kids? Please share in the comments!