They grow up fast! Don’t miss these opportunities to bond (and even bend the rules) with your little ones.
1. Reading aloud (long after they can read to themselves)
Once my kids grew out of Good Night Moon and Dr. Seuss, we just kept going. I read them wonderful classics like The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe chapter by chapter. It took time I often thought I did not have, but it was one of the most rewarding things we did together. Reading aloud to children (and preteens) stimulates their imaginations and increases their language skills. But perhaps more importantly, it provides quiet, shared time that underscores a sense of love and security. I remember reading Where The Red Fern Grows and crying so much at the end that I could not see the page to read it. I passed the book to my son and he read the last chapter out loud to me! He has never forgotten that moment.
2. Taking that dream family vacation
Whether it’s Disneyland, Dubai, or Denver, splurge on the type of trip that will provide a lasting sense of togetherness as a family. You might feel the financial pinch at the time — or the sting of being away from work for a week — but the shared memories you collect will be priceless. Studies show that it is more satisfying to spend money on experiences than material things. And the anticipation and memory of those experiences makes you happier than amassing more possessions.
3. Letting them stay home sick … when they are not actually sick
Every now and then, a mental health day is in order. (That’s right, Ferris Bueller’s day off should have been his mom’s idea!) I suggest you call in sick as well so you can cuddle on the couch together watching movies and eating ice cream. One day will not knock anyone off the path to valedictorian. But it just might be the best day you’ve had together in quite a while.
4. Learning from them
One of the most gratifying things about raising children is watching them develop their own interests, hobbies, and skills, whether it’s medieval history or magic tricks. My son played the trumpet and introduced me to classical music. I’m so glad that the tables were turned and I could be the student instead of the teacher for a change. If your child is passionate about something, let him take the lead and instruct you. He’ll gain confidence and you’ll learn something new.
5. Spending time with each child separately
I had four so I know this is tough but you’ll regret not singling each one out for some alone time. Children with siblings reap a lot of a benefits but they also face lots of forced sharing and compromise. Allow your kids to take a break from all that by giving each one the gift of a day with you alone. Let your child pick the activities and allow yourself to focus on the needs of just one instead of the demands of many.
6.Walking a mile in their shoes
Did you ever see the movie Freaky Friday, where mother and daughter get switched and spend a week living one another’s lives? Not a bad idea. When my oldest daughter was taking horseback riding lessons, I eventually decided to give it a try, too. Even though I’d never been on a horse, I figured I had a good foundation knowledge of the sport: After all, I would spend hours each week standing on the sidelines of her lessons listening to her instructor shout, “Sit up straight! Keep your heels down!” And, I’ll admit, I uncharitably thought, “Is it really that hard to follow a few simple instructions?” Then I had my first lesson and as the instructor yelled the same things at me, I wanted to cry, “Stop! I can’t remember to do so many things at once and still stay on this moving, snorting beast!” And then I complained for days afterwards about the sore muscles in my jello legs. Lesson learned — and it wasn’t about how to ride a horse. It was about my daughter’s abilities, persistence, and guts (not to mention the benefits of younger, stronger legs).
7. Leaving them with their grandparents
It may make you a little nervous, but drop the kids off with your parents or his for a weekend (or longer). Everyone benefits: the kids get plenty of spoiling and not much discipline; the grandparents get the chance to bond with your kids — and you get much needed time off from the daily grind.
8. Letting them make their own mistakes
These days, we have all heard the term “helicopter parenting,” which describes parents who can’t stop hovering over their children. Sure, children need guidance and help, but they also need to learn coping strategies. They must build resistance to disappointment and failure, and find ways to problem-solve — things that can only be accomplished if they are allowed to stand on their own two feet. If you are constantly there to catch every spill, right every wrong and fix every misstep, you will live to regret it. And your child will ultimately suffer. So, go ahead, let your 11-year-old loose in the kitchen and don’t fret about the spilled milk and burned brownies. Let your child own it — the mistakes and the successes. She will be a better person for it in the long run.
9. Investing in their education
Your number one job as a parent is to raise a child who will be a self-sufficient, spiritually enlightened human being. The best way to do that is to make sure your child has as good an education as possible. This means researching the right schools, spending time there, volunteering, attending all parent/teacher conferences, and being available for homework help. An investment in education sets children up for future success in life and for a life in which they can have a positive impact on their communities and the people around them. Every hour you spend teaching, coaching, and supporting them will pay off. To make sure you’re prepared, consider starting a 529 when your children are still small. It’s a college savings plan with tax advantages. Most banks will be happy to talk to you about opening a 529 account, but you can read more about them here.
10. Letting the student surpass the master
You taught your child chess, basketball, Monopoly, piano. So, you should keep besting him at all of it, right? Wrong. Time to let the kid win. Okay, who are we kidding? Let him? He will eventually beat you fair and square. But you will regret it if you don’t take your loss graciously and give him his due. No whining. No excuses. Because they’ll look back on those games fondly one day, and even when they’re adults, you just might find that they’re still eager to set aside a little time to play with you.
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