It’s the greatest gift. It’s the hardest job. It’s soooooo tiring. There are lots of nail-on-head cliches about raising children that get thrown around, but the one that takes many of us by surprise is how parenting can get harder emotionally as our children grow and become more independent.
The key? Staying connected with your children, including when they’re not by your side, so that they know you’re always there for them, no matter what. Here’s how to build on your indestructible bond through the summer months.
1 Make time for micro-moments
During the summer holidays we’re often trying to juggle work and parenting at the same time, which means hiding away in our home office while they’re off doing who-knows-what around the house. One consequence is that we only give our kids proper attention when they’re not behaving brilliantly, such as raiding the freezer for their zillionth ice-cream or soaking the neighbours’ washing with water guns. Result: we accidentally reinforce the bad behaviour because our children learn this is the best way to get us to notice them.
The secret? Shoehorn micro-moments into your day – small gestures, small words, small acts. So, make time to jump in the paddling pool with them and have garden Nerf battles or, if they’re away from home, put smiley faces on their lunchbox banana and use Vodafone Neo – the smartwatch for kids that lets them stay in touch with a trusted set of contacts – to send a cute text or to read them a bedtime story from afar. That way, they’ll know they’re always front of mind – and not just when they’ve nabbed the last choc ice.
2 Foster their independence
Now is a brilliant time to bond with your child by helping them develop their skills, self-esteem and problem-solving techniques. A good place to start is to give your children simple choices that empower them. Do they want to ride their bike to the park or walk the dog? Do they want to learn something new or play an old favourite game?
They might also love a smartwatch especially designed for kids, like Vodafone Neo, where you can add trusted contacts for them to text or call, or add events and reminders – which means your child can organise their own playdates. OK, there might be an overabundance of emojis on every message, but it’ll teach them many lessons, such as compromise, the value of time, organisation skills, and how to communicate with people in their life.
3 Rock those rituals
Rituals are one of the best ways to maintain a healthy connection as your child grows. Whether your summer go-tos are Sunday barbecues or coke floats to celebrate the first day of a holiday, customs bring you all together. But family summer traditions don’t have to be the big things – a fun loop of daily behaviours will strengthen your ties, too.
So, pick one fun ritual you could add to your summer – maybe a funny dance that only the two of you know, a special made-up song at bathtime, or a “code word” that you use when you wave your child off for a playdate. Better still, when they’re staying with grandma or are having a sleepover with their cousins (cue: homesickness).
4 Bridge differences by getting competitive
It might sound counterintuitive, but a bit of healthy competition with your child can make you feel that you’re on the same team. So, set a daily challenge, such as how many steps you can do – the Vodafone Neo has a clever activity tracker for little legs and can set targets to get kids moving. This can open up lots of future conversations that will help you bond with your child, from what they get up to when you’re not around to all those steps you rack up running around after them.
5 Try the ‘listen, nudge, coach’ approach
Summer is a time for new experiences, whether that’s a childcare camp with children they don’t know, or sleeping under the stars with friends. These can bring up a whole heap of new feelings for them (not to mention you!). The key to making children feel secure is to ensure they always feel heard, that their thoughts and feelings matter. It’s these moments of connection between you both that make them feel loved, safe, and empowered to try new things.
To encourage your child to open up about their feelings, try the “listen, nudge, coach” approach: show them you understand their words, ask them to suggest a solution, and then chat through how that could work. In other words, show them they’ve got this.
Whatever your style of family communication, feel connected to your child with Neo, the smart kids’ watch. Find out more at Vodafone