I’m amazed at how fast the days, months and even years pass by. It feels like just yesterday that my children were babies. Now, they are little walking people testing me left and right. Before they become adults and run out of my life, how do I maintain the somewhat healthy relationship we have? Or better yet, what can I do to strengthen our bond?
Here are some simple ideas which have helped.
Enjoy a meal together
Call me old fashion but I remember helping set the table for dinner and having to wait for my dad to join us before we began to eat. Minutes before that, I had been complaining about starvation and threatening my mom that I’d pass out. She never gave in and I never passed out. Instead, I learned sabr (patience), shukr (gratitude) and respect towards every member of my household.
The Prophet Mohammad(ﷺ) emphasized the importance of this when he said, “Eat together and not separately, for the blessing is associated with the company.” (Ibn Majah)
Wise words which build beautiful bonds.
Share a story
Due to our hectic schedule during the week, our meals tend to be whatever we are able throw together. But on the weekend I go out of my way to prepare a one meal dish. A simple one. We do it “The Sunnah Way”. I place a mat on the floor, we sit super close to each other and enjoy our meal from one platter. My children love it. The ethnic dish reminds my husband of his childhood and back home. And, the stories come streaming out. Our children beg to hear them, “It’s rice story time dad!”, they scream. Good memories, delicious aroma, sitting in a circle and a wonderful family tradition brings us all closer physically, emotionally and spiritually. It is wonderful, mashaAllah.
Take short vacations, often
I know how it is to have a house full of kids(alhumdulillah). Things multiplied by the total # of people at home can become impossible to afford. So, vacation time becomes non-existent. It shouldn’t be this way. We all need a breather and change in atmosphere. Forget about the expensive air plane tickets. Look around you and take a road trip about 2 hours north, south, east or west. This is a fun way to connect with your child(ren). In a world where we are over-stimulated, a little bit of boredom or calmness can be very productive and therapeutic.
Remember to try to limit the use of cell phones, first and foremost for yourself. Your child will more eagerly do as you do, not as you say. Let’s begin by setting a good example. Sharing a quiet ride, appreciating the beautiful, natural scenery may be all that is needed to maintain a healthy connection.
Pick the best time of the day when you have the patience and energy for your child. It only takes about 15 minutes. My kids have chosen a favorite Sahaba (companion of the Prophet Mohammad ﷺ ) and purchased a book about him/her. A few times a week, we snuggle together and drift deep into the pages. This works for any age. Take turn reading with them. Remember to be present and calm. Cammomile tea can help greatly in this department.
Listen to them
It’s important to know and acknowledge your child’s feelings and opinions. This can become tricky as they get older. They tend to close up due to our reaction towards them. We need to establish an environment where they feel comfortable. Try speaking to your child casually and avoid too much eye contact. Begin a conversation when you are both in the kitchen finishing up a chore or around the table while catching up on schoolwork. For some simple ideas on how to communicate with your child, please refer to How to Talk, When to Listen and What to Say to Your Child. This can also be a time to connect with your child. Remember that it is quality and consistency that makes beautiful changes. Let them know that you are interested in their interests and in what makes them happy. Can’t think of what to say to get them to talk? Get some ideas by reading Words that Express Your Love to Your Child.
Text, email, write or chat with them
Our world is loaded with gadgets we can’t avoid. Let’s figure out a positive way to use them. It’s important to stay updated so that you’re connected with your child. Texting, emailing or chatting with your child is a great way to do just that. Little love notes in their lunchbox can also make them smile. Be silly and creative to strengthen this bond.
Savor the moment
Being a parent does not mean we must guide our child’s every move. Bite your tongue if you must to be in the moment and appreciate the little things. See the world through their eyes and experience it through their touch and smell. Allow your son to help you ring up the groceries at the self check line and grab the coins that fall out of the machine. Let your daughter pinch and smell the peaches before you wash them for her. It gives them great satisfaction to experience these things.
Children may be a test for us but they are also a huge blessing, alhumdulillah. Angels are known to hover around our sweet innocent kids, protecting them. Slow down and be present with them. Realize that soon they will be too big to sit on your lap and allow you to hug and kiss them. And that my dear sisters and brothers is the #1 way to bond with your child– lots and lots of hugs and kisses 🙂