Thank you to Deborah Shelby for this guest post on ways to create happy memories with our kids. I love her ideas and nodded reading this as they reinforce so many of the principles I write about in Naked Parenting. Enjoy the read, and your kiddos!
Guest post by Deborah Shelby of Prayerful Mom.
Motherhood is tough. Trying to take care of your family, your home, your work, balancing it all, and making your family’s lives run smoothly are exhausting.
I know you’re busy and tired and at times overwhelmed. But imagine five years from now, or ten years from now, what do you want to remember about this time in your life and your children’s lives? In twenty years, how do you want your children to remember their childhoods? What kinds of memories will they have of their mom and their family life?
As a mother of teenagers, here are a few lessons I’ve learned to create happy memories and bond with my kids:
The best memories and most fun are the messiest activities!
I can’t tell you how many of my kids’ friends loved playing at our house for Play-doh alone. Most of them were not allowed to play with it at home because it’s so messy. There’s real work involved in the cleanup, and it’s time-consuming. It gets ground into the carpet. I get it. Yes, it’s a pain. But 10 years from now, your kids will treasure those fond memories of creativity and squishy, moldable fun! Put an old shower curtain under the table that you can roll up and take outside to clean.
I also gave my children plastic aprons, and I allowed them to paint and have stamp pads and make mess pretty much any time, as long as they followed the rules. They learned quite young how to be respectful of our home and help clean up and how to be responsible with their supplies. They took care of rinsing paint brushes and cleaning their rubber stamps.
Another messy activity you shouldn’t deny your kids is letting them jump in mud puddles. We always kept rubber boots for the kids, and stomping in mud puddles was incredible fun. Yes, you’ll have more laundry. But again, you’re giving your kids wonderful, happy childhood memories.
Nurture your relationship with your kids by giving them your undivided attention.
Make sure your children understand how important they are. If you want them to talk to you about their lives when they are teenagers and young adults, you’ll have to listen to those excited, shrill, little-kid voices first. Listen when they want to tell you something. Whenever possible, stop what you’re doing when they want to show you something. Make time for what is important to your children.
Telling your kids they are important is not as powerful as showing them how important they are to you. Saying, “I love you” is not as powerful as making your children feel loved. Be mindful of how you talk to your friends and family about your kids. You never want to let them overhear you talking like they are an inconvenience or a chore.
Every word, facial expression, gesture, or action on the part of a parent gives the child some message about self-worth. It is sad that so many parents don’t realize what messages they are sending. –Virginia Satir
A sense of humor is your best defense when parenthood gets tough. Laughter is also a strong bonding experience. The more you laugh together, the better and closer your relationship will be. I have found humor an especially important tool in getting my children to listen to me when I have a tough time getting their attention. As you know, kids can get a bit wild. Sometimes it seems like they can’t even hear you telling them for the third time that it’s bath time.
I could scream and yell and threaten, but I find it more effective to do something silly and unexpected. Like stick on a fake mustache. Or start talking in a funny accent and pretend to misunderstand what they say. When kids are laughing, it’s hard for them to be grumpy or disagreeable.
Take the time to truly enjoy your children.
The time you spend playing dinosaurs and Polly Pockets now will pay off when your kids still want to enjoy your company as teenagers. Play with them! Play the things they want to. It was gross when I used to turn over logs for my little boy to see what kind of bugs were underneath, but I did it anyway. When my little girl wanted to pour me a 7th cup of “tea” (or 77th), I pretended to drink it cheerfully.
Plan fun activities and adventures together. Really enjoy your children’s company to create happy memories together. Worry more about that than about trying to capture a picture for Facebook. Don’t view your kids’ childhood only through a camera lens.
Create Special Moments for Bonding.
Bedtime is one of the best opportunities for bonding experiences with your kids. I know you’re frazzled and tired at the end of the day, but when you look back on these years, you want happy memories, not regrets!
I regret not having had more time with my kids when they were growing up. -Tina Turner
Stagger bedtimes by 15 or 20 minutes if your kids are in separate bedrooms so you can spend time with each one. Always read books together. Sing lullabies to your children. Talk quietly together. As your kids get older, they won’t talk to you as much after school about their day, but they usually will open up more at bedtime.
Eventually my kids got old enough that they begged me to stop singing, which is actually quite funny. I can’t carry a tune in a bucket, but they begged for my lullabies when they were little. When they got older and wanted to read their own books to themselves, we would all pile into my bed, each of us with our own different book, and still read “together.” Eventually they outgrew that too, but my teenagers still like to hang out with me before bed and talk.
Car rides are the other golden opportunity for talking and bonding. Resist the urge to put an electronic gizmo in your kids’ hands for car rides if possible. Ask about subjects the kids are interested in, and let them talk.
When kids grow up talking to you in the car or at bedtime, they’ll be more likely to continue the familiar practices when they’re older. It’s also easier for teenagers to talk to you on a car ride when you’re looking at the road ahead than at home when you’re looking at them. It’s one of those weird truisms for teens. Take advantage of it. Don’t let opportunities for bonding and making happy memories with your children pass by. One day soon it’ll be too late.
To be in your children’s memories tomorrow, you have to be in their lives today. ― Barbara Johnson
About the Author:
Deborah Shelby is a life and happiness enthusiast, full-time working mom, and writer. She shares ideas and inspiration to help busy moms live a happier and better life on her site Prayerful Mom, soon to be renamed Happier Better Life.