7 Ways to connect with your kids this week

Feb 11, 2010 at 10:50 a.m. ET

With the harried lives we live, it can be easy to feel disconnected from our families. Get connected this week with these seven easy methods.

Mom with tween girl cooking

Sometimes, life can feel like a great big merry-go-round of get up, get kids to school, go to work, feed kids, sleep, repeat. It's stressful to manage all the schedules, and disappointing to realize that you haven't spent as much time with the kids as you'd like.

So, how do you reconnect as a family when it seems like life is moving in 100 different directions? Try these easy methods to bring your family closer together.

Have dinner together

Families used to eat dinner together nightly. These days, though, with packed schedules and stressed-out families, it doesn't happen so much. If you want to connect with your family in a way that will have lasting benefits for your children, however, making the effort is worth is. "There are tons of research about how important it is for families… for bonding," says Jeanne Muchnick, author of Dinner for Busy Moms. Muchnick says that families who eat dinner together have kids who do better in school and have higher self-esteem.

It doesn't have to be every night, but try to eat dinner together often, and linger over the conversations. You never know what your kids might share.

Play a game

Another recipe for fun and laughter: Pull out a board game. Whether you adore Apples to Apples or Monopoly, board games are a great family activity that will get the whole family involved -- and talking. Plus, it will give you more things to talk about at the dinner table, too.

Cook together

Divvy up the tasks for making dinner, and work together. Even young children can get in the kitchen and help, says chef and cookbook author George Stella, who hosted Low Carb and Lovin' It on the Food Network.
Stella, who travels the country teaching classes on cooking with kids, says that getting kids into the kitchen can get them to try new things and really experiment with good, healthy food.

And if you feel pressed for time, the cooking session can happen on a spare weekend day in preparation for the week. "Make plans to cook with your kids in the kitchen for three hours to make meals for when you are tired. It costs less and you just feel good about it," says Stella.

Do a project

Even if cooking isn't your thing, working together is a great way to bring your family closer. Choose a project -- painting a room, crafting or even something fun like taking photos -- and get the whole family involved. Your family will be able to share the great sense of accomplishment for completing a special task as a unit.

Get outside

It's one of those stereotypical television scenes: The whole family piling outside for "a catch" or to play tag. But the simple truth is that doing things outside together gives you time to chat, and can even lead to laughs. And laughter is a fabulous connecting device.

It doesn't matter whether it's snowy or sunny; you can always find something fun to do outside. Geocacheing, anyone?

Turn on the video games

Yes, you read that right. Video games can actually be good for your family's relationships. As parents,you might have difficulty relating to kids and their passions sometimes. But turning on a family-friendly game like Rock Band or Guitar Hero can bring everyone a little closer (and let you all have fun together, too!). "It gives you a chance to do something fun that they enjoy, while still being in a position to offer guidance on life lessons, like taking turns, thinking creatively, planning ahead, creating a fallback plan. There are so many ways gaming stretches kids' developing minds, in ways that are wonderful for a parent to watch and participate in," says Rachel Bernstein, lead producer on MySyms Agents.


In some ways, this should be first on the list. If you really want to connect with your kids, then turn off all the distractions that can draw you away from your family. Television, radio, Internet and cell phones all can pull your family in a million and one directions. But if you turn them off for a bit, talking with and focusing on each other are a whole lot easier.