January 29, 2015

A 30 Day Connected Kid Challenge (30 Connection Building Activities)

Sometimes I lose my mom mojo.  I usually find that this happens when one of my relationships with my kids is struggling. I know I'm not the only one riding the struggle bus in infinite circles right now.

I love moms.  I talk to moms constantly.  I find that a lot of moms just get cooked- smoked all the way down to the filter.  We have a million things on our plates.  There's work and laundry and endless meals to make and homework to do and committees and blah blah blah. Throw in a child who's having a hard time and sometimes we get so bogged down we miss those little things that are supposed to make motherhood joyous- those little moments of meaningful connection with our children.

I'm going through a really difficult season with one of my kids right now.  I've been brainstorming how to help my relationship with this child grow and flourish.  Often this relationship feels like a one way street.  Instead of getting upset about it and continuing down the rabbit hole, I've made up my mind that instead of letting the relationship woes fester, I'm going to keep doing my part.  My nature when things get hard is to pull back.  If one of my kids is single handedly trying to drive me crazy, then my instinct is to pull back from them, when usually what that child needs is for me to draw near.  It's counter intuitive to everything I want to do.

Thus, this list was born. I needed a plan to help me reconnect to this child in a positive way.  I know a drastic overhaul is too shocking to the system so I'm taking small, daily, baby steps with this one.  I've created a 30 day challenge.  A love list ,if you will, designed to get my relationship back on track with my child 5-ish minutes at a time.  Each day there's a small activity designed to build connection. Here's the thing.  None of these have a single thing to do with my child reciprocating.  And that's okay.  If the child wants to stay angsty, it's okay.  If they don't want to participate, that's okay.  The offer was made.  If I'm focusing on putting in the effort and doing my part in repairing and rebuilding, then that's all I can do.  I'm sharing this list in case anyone else might happen to need some help with a launching off point.    

So, hey mama, this is for you (and me!). You:  the mama who gets into bed at night and thinks that she's not the fun mom she thought she'd be.  The mom who has a child who is really struggling and your relationship with that child is suffering as a result.  This is for the mom parenting an angry kid, a sad kid, a stubborn kid, an attachment challenged kid, a kid who has tons more energy than you can deal with, a great kid who's just having a bad month.  Just any kid.  All of our kids can benefit from some intentionally designed time.  (And spouses and significant others and friends!  How good does it feel when someone really plans out how they can best love us!?!)

I'm starting this month long challenge today. I'm going to choose one activity per day and work through the entire 30 days. I'm hoping it's going to be just what I need to help me get out of a rut in our home.  I'm excited to see how this creates changes in my own heart and breaks the cycle of negativity currently running through my own brain. I truly believe that miracles can happen when we pour positivity in our relationships.  If you'd like to participate, feel free to let me know and I'll try to encourage you in any way I can.  (And by all means, make suggestions.  This is not an exhaustive list.) Who's with me?

Edited to add:  A sweet reader made the list into a printable document with check boxes in case anyone wants to print it out and work through the list.  The doc can be downloaded from https://docs.google.com/document/d/1VJHc1F6ObwoWAhYC57kFH9VtWaw2dUbbUJqT95HwVUA/edit

30 CONNECTION BUILDING ACTIVITIES: 


Write a note listing three things you love about your child and put it in their lunch box or backpack so they find it later.

Watch a YouTube video and learn a card trick together.  Then do the trick for someone else in the house.  (You get to be in on something TOGETHER!)

Hide a picture of the two of you together somewhere in the house and give them a clue to follow to find the hidden picture.  Write a little note about why you love that picture of the two of you.

Make her favorite thing for dinner and mention that you made this meal with her in mind.

Say nothing negative to or about the other person for an entire day.

Choose a book or magazine you know the child will love and read it aloud to them (or just in the same room as them)

Randomly fist bump/hug/whatever's comfortable and say, "Hey!  You're a great kid!"

Offer to play the child's favorite game.  During the time it takes to play the game ask what the best part of their week has been and really listen.

Say something nice to another person about your child so that your child can overhear you talking positively about them.

Learn a riddle together and then try to stump someone else in your house with the riddle.

Do one of the child's regular chores for them.  If they have to make their bed every day leave a little note on the bed (or wherever the chore is) that says, "I wanted you to have 5 extra minutes of play time today so I made your bed up for you today!"

Plan a movie night and let your child pick the movie and the snack.

Remind your child of a big achievement they've had and tell them how you are always proud of them. (Remember when you worked hard and xyz happened?)  (Remember when you were really angry and instead of yelling you took a deep breath?  I was really proud!)

Whatever it is that your child is into, learn some cool facts about that thing today and share them with your child so they can see that you care about what they are interested in.

Make a mess together.  Paint, play with shaving cream, do an experiment- just something you wouldn't normally let the child do and don't worry about the mess.  Focus on getting to do the activity together.

Make a list just for you of the top five qualities your child possesses.  Put this note somewhere that you can revisit it on a day when you need to be reminded about your child's positive qualities.

Remind your child of one of your favorite memories together.  "Remember that day that we did xyz and it was so much fun?  I love seeing you be happy!"

Say yes to things you'd normally say no to (within reason).  Bubbles in the bath tonight?  Sure.  Five extra minutes of TV before bed?  Okay.

Crank up the music loud and throw an impromptu dance party.

Play a game together like Jenga or Kerplunk that requires strategizing and working together.

Whatever your child likes to do, do it with them for 15 uninterrupted minutes.  Crafting, video games, jumping on the trampoline- all those things we send them to do when we need a break- do it with your child this time.

Spend a little while in prayer specifically over or your relationship.  If you aren't a praying person, spend some time reflecting about your relationship and it's strengths.  Give yourself a pep talk.

Take the time to learn a new joke and tell it to your child.

Make your child's favorite treat.  Even better if you let them help you make it.

Think about the day you first met your child and tell them how you felt about it.  If it was at birth tell them how you felt getting to hold them for the first time.  If they were older, tell them how you felt the first time you laid eyes on them.

Build a fort and spend some time in it together.

Let something go.  If there's a minor infraction show your child more grace than normal. And say something like, "You know what?  Today, I'm going to let that slide."  And then really let it slide. Don't allow it to fester.  Show grace and mean it. Sometimes we can show our kids unconditional love by cutting them a bit of slack.

Say one positive thing to your child at every meal throughout the day.

Tackle a small project together.  Clean out the garage or organize a closet or put a photo album together- anything that creates a sense of accomplishment when it's finished.

Leave various motivational sticky notes around places in your child's room to help pump them up.

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My friend David once said something that so profoundly affected me as a parent.  He said, "Your permanent relationship with your child can not be based on your child's temporary behavior." Chew on that one for a bit.  It's good stuff!

January 22, 2015

Mornings

He bounds down the stairs every morning the minute he hears the coffee maker come on and leaps right into my arms.  His little cheeks are soft on my cheeks and his sweaty little hands wrapped around my neck hold as tight as they can.  "I love you so so much, Mommy."  And then I melt.  Every single morning.

Noah is my my morning person.  Sadie could sleep all day long if I'd let her and has always been that way- even as a tiny baby.  Miles and Scarlett wake up early but they aren't always happy about it and can't seem to understand that it's okay to sleep a little later if it makes them feel better.  They are always afraid of missing out on something. But Noah?  He pops up at 6:20 every day, gets dressed and waits.  His room is directly on top of the kitchen and as soon as he hears the first sputters of the coffee maker he knows it's his cue for "Noah time".  

This little tradition started at the beginning of this school year.  Noah just needs a little extra time in the mornings with mom before the chaos of the day starts.  It quickly became the favorite part of my day.  He eats his breakfast at the counter while I pack the school lunches.  He talks to me about what he read the night before.  We contemplate the really hard questions of life like what would happen if humans had as many eyeballs as flies or what if the Earth jumped it's orbit and it suddenly got very hot or cold.  My normally quiet kid is all chatter in the mornings.  In a house full of loudness, I think sometimes it hard for him to find his voice so it's such a gift to hear all his words.

Sometimes he helps me with the lunches.  Sometimes we hurry up and get them packed so there's time for him to just sit in my lap before we have to wake the others up for school.  In those moments, I'm more aware of time passing than any other time.  I wonder how many more days/weeks/years I have where my little one wants to be with me so intentionally.  I'm so conscious of time passing and I tell myself daily to hold him just a bit closer because what if? 

I love that he carves out that time for me.  While I'm waking the other kids up, he brushes his teeth and puts his shoes on.  Then he wraps himself up tightly in a blanket like a burrito and crawls up in a corner with his kindle and the blanket over his head until it's time to go to school.  It's a sensory thing- but he's figured out that's what he needs.  During the endless, "Eat your breakfast!  Brush your teeth!  Put your lunch in your backpack!" stream of orders that go out once all the kids are awake, he knows he needs to retreat and he's figured out his own way to handle it.  I used to wonder if Noah would ever be able to handle loud and chaos and just life in general- and he's doing it.  He's blazing his own path and meeting his own needs and it's so gratifying to watch him figure out how to navigate. 

When it's time to get in the car for school, I hug them all before Daddy loads them up.  The rest of the kids just want a quick hug and a "have a good day" as they head out. They run to the car with excitement because they love school so much. But Noah always wants to walk out the door last.  He hugs longer and tighter and he tells me that he'll miss me while he's at school.  He flashes me his huge toothless grin and grabs his backpack and walks out the door ready to conquer the world.

And conquer it he will. 


  
From the other night: "Mom, we've been studying about so many things at school, like the Underground Railroad and Harriet Tubman and slavery. And it's got me thinking. Can you help me find all our books about it? And while we're looking for books, can you also order me some on women's rights?"  And then I died happy. 
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