Five birds are sitting on a telephone wire. Two decide to fly south. How many are left? Most people would say three. Actually, all five are left. You see, deciding to fly isn’t the same thing as actually doing it.
So it is with most things. Good intentions are not enough. It’s not what we want, say or think that makes things happen; it’s what we do. We either make the time for the things we want to and should do, or we make excuses.
No doubt all good parents want to spend more time with their children, but so often life gets in the way. Bills have to be paid and there’s no getting off that merry-go-round. Teachers fantasize about spending more time with children doing activities that don’t require a lesson plan, but endless responsibilities soak up any surplus creativity and free time in the classroom. But this does not change a child’s enormous need for personal attention.
We’ve all see children in our schools and on our streets struggling to get the attention they need. Misbehavior is a sure way to capture attention, and sadly, some children have been conditioned to believe that acting up is the only way to get noticed. On the other hand, children thrive with regular doses of healthy interest from a caring adult. Naturally, positive affection starts at home. Educators and helping professionals can’t begin to fill the ever-growing number of empty “love” cups, but they quickly recognize when a child is not receiving regular one-on-one time at home.
Perhaps the solution is easily attainable. What if more adults were willing to fill a child’s cup with the simple act of time and attention? Imagine if making a connection with a child were just a routine part of our busy schedules. Essentially, there are only a couple of things to remember if you want instigate and inspire more connectivity between you and the children in your life.
The best gifts in life cannot be purchased.
You may already know that the best gifts in life are not things but people and experiences, which is why the best gift you can ever hope to give someone is yourself. The smallest good deed is better than the grandest good intention. Don’t save up your time and energy for a trip to Disney World when you can take a nightly walk or complete a jigsaw puzzle together. Connecting with children is relatively easy to do when you think of yourself as a gift. Keep in mind how much children love gifts. Caring gestures do not have to be complicated or costly. Kindness will resonate in every child’s heart no matter how silly or small. The most memorable gestures often cost nothing.
Here’s a hot tip: Adults sometimes forget how pliable and interested children are when offered the opportunity to help. Cleaning a closet, for example, is on everyone’s “to do list.” Put some forethought into how you could infuse a little creativity into the task and incorporate your child into the chore. Everyone will have more fun and get more done. Don’t fall into the trap of dismissing or ignoring children when you’re swamped with a bottomless list of things to do. Remind yourself that all it takes is a slight shift in attitude and VOILA — you’re a present!
My husband and I took the time to teach our children how to do chores, including grooming the dog. Admittedly, it took extra time not to mention a bucket load and a half of patience, but it was worth it. Our favorite Emily-age nine-quote was and still is, “We’re not cheap dog owners. We’re sheepdog owners!” Would it have been easier to groom the dog myself? Of course it would have, but look at what we would have missed.
Our homes reflect who, what and where we are. A home is the nest where both adults and children roost and take refuge from the storms of life. Home is where we nurture ourselves and whether you live in a mansion, an igloo, an apartment, a houseboat or a room, home is where stories begins and hearts lives.
To help children boost their sense of belonging and cultivate confidence, make sure children have space for inspiration and outlets for creative energy. Frame and hang their artwork. Let them plant a garden, arrange a cozy reading nook, and most of all, let them have a say in how their room is arranged. Children flourish when they are able express themselves without the fear of making a mess stifling their imaginations.
When I was thirteen my mother finally gave me permission to decorate my room. I fell in love with a purple and lime green fabric. No one told me that green and purple could have been accent colors and introducing a third neutral color such as tan would have been good choice so I choose lavender for the wall color and chartreuse for all the wood trim including windows, baseboards and closet. What I thought was stunning surely made my parents gag. But I was free to dream and to this day I still dream big dreams.
Whether or not we work outside the home or in a classroom, life will always be hectic. It is easy to get into a busy schedule that leads us to feel disconnected from children. The key is to put “fun” on the schedule and enjoy the anticipation of reconnecting with children. Remember, relationships do not do well because people decide to connect. (Five birds on a wire ring a bell?)
Relationships thrive because caring adults offer themselves as a gift to little birdies, all of whom crave attention.
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