As cliché as it may sound, one of the best ways to teach your kids how to be the people you hope they may become is to show them, especially as they move into the pre-teen and teenage years. Through your own behavior, you'll truly make an impact and help your kids connect with your values, as well as teach them to incorporate those values into daily life. Kids need to witness the benefits of pursued interests, strength in conviction and hard work, in order to really connect with and apply your advice. Just ask Kim Owens, a mother of two. "My fourteen-year-old son has learned to be polite to others from watching my husband and me treat others with kindness and respect. We're really proud of him, and have gotten quite a few compliments about his quickness to say 'please' and 'thank you' without any prompting."
Listening to your kids is good. Showing them you're listening is great. Plan an activity with your children that reflects their expressed interests. Without saying a word, you can signal that you notice and care about what they're into. Carolyn Hentschell, mother of two, shares that she watches shows like Battlestar Gallactica with her son and spends time taking her daughter to musicals and plays. "Neither would be my first choice of entertainment," she shares. "But we do it because they like it, and it helps us bond -- I do whatever it takes to spend time with them." An added bonus: while you are able to connect with your kid, you're also providing a lesson in the importance of exploring interests and being open to trying new things -- an important skill to help build confidence.
Maintaining a stable, consistent routine is a great way to keep your kids feeling safe and connected to the family, even as their schedules become difficult to keep up with. Make maintaining the household routine a priority, and then make plenty of room within it to allow for adjustments to meet their needs. Diane Heumann, a mother of four, explains: "Maintaining a consistent schedule keeps kids connected to the home, and it also helps to teach them about boundaries. They know when certain activities are acceptable and when they are not." Leveraging a little flexibility into the household schedule for your kids also shows them you understand what's important to them, like a sleepover or after school activity. When they are home, however, make the environment as calm and predictable as possible.
Establish a "thing" that you and your child share together. Make it special, and avoid including others in this shared activity or interest. Whether it's taking a yoga class together or going out for hot chocolate before dinner every Tuesday, a special activity that is just between you and your child is a great time to talk, have fun and laugh together. This will provide plenty of opportunity to connect, without feeling like it's forced. "I have two boys and one girl, so she and I have to get out to get a little quiet time," says Donna Selbert. " We typically have lunch together once every two weeks to catch up over soup and lattes. We connect over carbs -- it's a lot of fun."
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