By Gen Cohen
These days, a lot of parents are so overwhelmed with the daily grind that they don't have the energy to think of creative ways to bond with their children. But we talked to some busy parents who are connecting with their kids in a variety of inventive ways. We hope these parenting tips for working mothers and fathers inspire you.
Use Your Talents
Amy Reyes is a senior graphic designer for a major corporation, an illustrator and all-around talented artist, but she is also a single mother of one. To her, the hardest part of being a mom was admitting that it is OK to do something for herself; especially if it helps her to be a better parent in the long run. Her solution for creating a bond with her son combines her need to work on her own art and her desire to create something special for her son. So she has started utilizing her skills as an artist to work on her lunchnotes series. Every night, instead of writing a traditional note for her son to read the next day at school, she draws him a character to greet him during his lunch and remind him that she is thinking of him.
"As an artist and a single mom, there never seems to be enough time to fit my art in. It gets so frustrating, and it's something a lot of people don't understand. If I don't draw, I get really depressed. So the lunchnotes were kind of born out of necessity. I wanted to let my kiddo know I was thinking about him during the day, and I also wanted to draw every day," Amy says. "At the end of the evening, I have 45 minutes to myself. This way it's a win-win. I get to draw and he gets a special hello from Mom every day."
Amy realizes not everyone can draw, but anyone can get on board with the main purpose behind lunchnotes: making a connection.
"Artistic abilities aren't necessary to connect," Amy says. "Don't set up a long list of rules for what you have to do in order to connect. There are endless ways to connect, and every parent has their own special something to contribute."
Besides drawing lunchnotes, Amy goes dark on electronic devices from Friday evenings until Monday mornings and makes Saturdays strictly fun days. She and her son don't do chores and do activities together.
"Put your phone away. Disconnect from your world and meet them in theirs. Allow yourself to be silly-hearted and to have fun. All they want is your time. That's it. It's up to you to decide what to do in that time," Amy says. "Childhood is short. Make that connection early—when you are in their world. And you'll still hopefully have it when you aren't anymore."
Take an Interest in Your Kids' Passions
Maria Singleton, mother of two, credits her connection to her two daughters to being "creative individually and as a family unit. I think it's important to know what your children love to do and explore those areas for deeper connections."
Her oldest daughter, a teenager, enjoys reading, cooking and sports, so Maria participates in those activities with her one on one. Her youngest has a passion for playing dolls, so Maria makes time to play with her.
"Any time I make the time to initiate the invitation to play dolls, her little face beams with joy," Maria says.
Like Amy, Maria agrees that it's important to take time for herself. She meets once a week with a group based in faith-driven studies, and she leaves each meeting "refreshed and filled with creative ways of handling the busyness and stresses of life."
Christopher Watson, a graphic designer, musician and father of three, enjoys working on creative video projects with his 9-year-old son. They enjoy creating worlds within the video game Minecraft together, and it inspired a project: a video walk-through of one of their creations. They planned out the tour, and his son did an ad-lib narration while Christopher filmed. They edited it on the computer and even composed some custom music. The end result was a fun video that they posted on You Tube.
"I think this was a great way for us to bond and complete something legit and meaningful. It was also a ton of fun for both of us. We have some other video and building projects in the works—some quick and easy and some that are more complex," Christopher says. "I think it's good for him to see the benefits of keeping at a project that takes some time to complete. I think it shows that some of the best rewards and accomplishments don't happen instantly."
Christopher spends time with his daughters a bit differently. The youngest is an active 2-year-old who enjoys playing and physically interacting with her world. Christopher isn't afraid to jump in and play at his daughter's level.
"Our time together is spent doing much simpler activities compared to the other two kids, but the connection comes from being active and involved instead of just sitting around inside," Christopher says.
Time with his eldest daughter is spent drawing or taking trips to the store together.
"I think the value of my time spent with her is the opportunity for us to talk and communicate in a relaxed setting, as opposed to the usual prodding conversations surrounding getting ready for school or bed," Christopher says.