It's easy to find ourselves asking our kids to play for another five minutes so that we can check off that never-ending to-do list. Although it's easier to get things done without the constant not-so-helpful hands in our way, it's crucial that our kids always feel special, even when we're at our busiest. Here are 10 ways we can show our kids that they always come first.
1. Turn off the phone and television at dinnertime
Make dinner a family event where there are no distractions. "Dinner is the most frequent and easiest scheduled time to make 'our time,'" says Dave McDonald, a father of two. "Without the distractions of a ringing phone or blaring television, the kids shift their attention to us," he continues. "It's amazing to me how excited our kids get just to talk with us. I love to see them smiling when they're telling us a story about their day, and having them happy makes me happy! That wouldn't happen with the TV on or the phone ringing, so everything is off at dinnertime because that's our time -- and I don't ever want to give that up."
2. Include them in your activities
"I involve my children in whatever I am doing," says Melissa Rolfson, a mother of three. "In our house that usually means we have crunchy eggshell cookies, but even though the timing isn't always great, the time taken is always incredibly worthwhile." Taking the extra time to involve the kids in your kitchen activities may delay dinner by 10 or 15 minutes, but could end up being a memory that your child will have for a lifetime.
3. Surprise them
Sure, candies and toys always bring a smile to a child's face, but how about surprising them with a real treat -- you! "I try to surprise my daughter once in a while by picking her up from school," says Elena Cherry. "I envy those who stay home, but when you are working out of the home and school hours fall in the middle of the day, it gets hard to coordinate. Sometimes I have to physically schedule that time in my Blackberry as a 'meeting,'" she adds, "but the smile on her face when she sees me is definitely worth it."
4. Make them laugh
An old Irish proverb states, "Bricks and mortar make a house, but the laughter of children makes a home." Children love to laugh and are always searching for an opportunity to let go, so why not help them? Get down on the ground and play horsy or turn up the music and do your best funky chicken dance -- whichever route you take, your children will be positively giddy. Laughing together cements the bond between you and your child.
5. Get involved at their school
Children whose parents are involved in their school are more likely to overcome certain types of peer pressure like smoking, says a study released by the U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Not only will helping out in your child's classroom let them know that you care about their education and are interested in what they are doing every day, but it will allow you to get to know the other kids in the class and help you find out what sort of peer pressure your child encounters in school. It's much easier to help your child fight peer pressure when you know when and where it's coming from.
6. Take part in their activities
Even though most parents dread taking the kids along on their day-to-day errands for fear of endlessly curious hands and temper tantrums, kids love when parents share their favourite activities with them. "My son loves trains," says Heather Camlot, a mother of two. "On nice days I like to take him to a nearby mall where the trains pass by at ground level. We park as close as we can to the fenced off tracks and watch as the trains fly by. There is nothing more fulfilling than watching the excitement on his face as he sees the trains pass."
7. Have "dates" with each child
Have a date day or night with your child and spend it at the movies, video arcade or even the coffee shop after guitar practice. Each of your children will appreciate the one-on-one time with Mom or Dad and relish the fact that they have your undivided attention.
8. Be persistent in asking questions
"Every day, when my son gets home from school, I call him and ask him how his day went," says Jean-Charles Dupoire. "He usually just shrugs and says, 'I don't know,' but after a few minutes of questioning he opens up and tells me the full ins and outs of his day. He gets really excited to know that I am interested, not just in his schoolwork, but about his friends and what sport he played in gym." Sometimes, the only way for parents to know what's really going on in a child's life is to simply ask. This may entail some persistence, but keep trying -- it will get easier, and the reward of a communicative child far outweighs the work.
9. Listen to your kids
When our kids come to us with problems, it's easy to shrug them off and say something like, "Wait until you grow up and have a mortgage to pay -- then you'll see what real problems are." But children don't understand this kind of logic; all they know is that whatever problem they are going through is affecting their world. Even though their problems may seem small to us, they are gigantic to them. Just a little bit of listening and reassuring lets kids know that you genuinely care and are there for them, no matter what.
10. Pamper yourself, too
Don't be afraid to take the morning off for a massage, a facial or even just a shower. The better you feel about yourself, the happier you will be with your children.