My daughters and I are very close. They’re talkers. I’m a talker. That makes it pretty easy for us to stay connected. We do a lot together, but talking is the big point of connection we share.
At 7 years old, M and J are starting to realize that I’m not quite as omniscient and all-powerful as they once thought, but I’m not yet uncool enough in their eyes for them to reject me. For the most part, they volunteer news from the day and keep me informed of the things that are important to them. They tell me about their schoolwork, their friends, and particularly delicious or gross food.
Why It Gets Harder to Connect with My Children
I haven’t spent the whole day with my kids for more than a long weekend and rare vacation since I returned to work when they were 11 weeks old. When they were in daycare, I got a note from school each day telling me about their feeding, diaper changes, and daily activities. I had a decent idea of what they’d been up to from those notes and conversations with the teacher. Once they entered kindergarten, though, I was reliant on my kids for news about their day.
I know that over time my children will naturally put more of a distance between us. While that is a normal part of growth, I always want them to know that I’m here for them, and I want to keep tabs on what they’re up to. I recognize that adolescence will be a time when my girls are moving towards adulthood and wanting adult-like privacy and say over the details of their own lives. I hope to be able to respect their desires for more adult-like treatment while providing them with the structure and support these teen children still need.
One Easy Way to Connect with My Children
Elementary school is a perfect time to establish habits to stay connected that will work for us when the children are older and venturing farther afield.
Every day, at some point, I ask each of my children the following questions:
- What was the best thing that happened today?
- What was the worst thing that happened?
- What have you read today?
- What was one thing you learned?
In addition to helping me know what’s been going on, these questions also encourage J and M to evaluate their experiences critically. Depending on how much else is we have to get done, any one of these questions can prompt a discussion lasting an hour or more.
Examples of Connecting with My Children
The worst thing in J’s day yesterday was my need to work from home in the evening. I had some last minute responsibilities that had to be taken care of then and there. Over 10 of us were pulling overtime to make it work.
I only ended up having 15 minutes available to spend with the children apart from the few minutes we spent together in the car. We talked about prioritization and how sometimes being the person one group of people can rely on means letting down another group. I explained to J that she and her sister were the most important part of my life, but that there were times when I had to trust them to tend to themselves while I took care of other business. She wasn’t any happier with me after we’d talked, but she felt heard and knew that I understood how disappointed she was in me.
On days when M can’t come up with a “best thing” that happened, I know it’s been a rough day and that she needs extra attention from me while her sister is occupied with something else. On days when she comes up with a list of “best things” and no “worst thing”, I know that any arguing I hear between my daughters will easily resolve itself and I leave them be to work things out. J usually sees both aspects of her day, but M sees the world in black and white.
When my children are away, usually staying with grandparents thousands of miles from here, I use these questions during our daily phone call if the conversations starts to stall. I don’t usually need them any more, since my 7-year-olds are usually bursting with news to tell me. When they were younger, age 4 or so, having specific questions to answer was helpful to them, since they kept wanting to show me things over the phone, which didn’t work particularly well.
How do you stay connected to your kids when you’re not together all day?
Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun. She also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.