My kids are ages nine, eight and four, so I have left the hazy, crazy days of infant and toddler parenting.
I am no longer changing diapers and scanning the living room for choking hazards. Instead I find myself reminding my nine-year-old to unload the dishwasher, telling my 8-year-old he can pour himself a bowl of cereal when he is hungry, and instructing my four-year-old to put on her own shoes before we leave the house.
Not gonna lie, I’m loving their strides toward more independence!
At the same time, the busyness of my days has ratcheted up. The older my kids become, the more activities they are involved in. There are individual schedules to maintain, more academic demands placed upon them, and new responsibilities for them to take on.
I’m also seeing my kids blossoming. They’re discovering and diving deeply into their personal interests. They’re beginning to recognize and develop their talents. They have tender hearts, and they’re starting to absorb the fact that there is injustice in this world. They experience the pangs of rejection from peers, and they’re learning they can stand up for others who are mistreated.
It’s an exhilarating (and sometimes scary!) time. Now more than ever, I want to nurture my kids’ hearts.
Life is hectic. There are many days when my interactions with my kids are rushed and focused solely on the logistics of daily life. Maybe you can relate?
Heart connections with our kiddos won’t happen without intentional creativity and grit.
Here are three easy ways to connect with your kids’ hearts
- Love Notes Journals: A couple of years ago on Valentine’s Day, I gave my two older kids their own journal and explained that I wanted to start exchanging “love notes” with them. When they are asleep at the end of the day and I realize I missed an opportunity for heart connection, I can reclaim that opportunity in writing. I jot down some questions and encouraging words, I set their journals out for them to read as soon as they wake up the next morning. They love reading my notes and seem to love writing back just as much! We go through phases of using the journals frequently and there are seasons when we don’t pick them up for awhile. But no matter how much time passes in between, there is a guaranteed connection every time I write to them and they write back.
- Intentional Read-Aloud Books: My two older kids and I always have a chapter book that we are working our way through together. When we were reading Ramona Quimby, Age 8 the story line involved an embarrassing situation for the main character. Suddenly, my daughter grabbed my hand and said, “Mom, were you ever embarrassed in school when you were a kid?” I was able to tell them how I accidentally stabbed the inside of my nose with a newly sharpened pencil in the 3rd grade. I also described how I was taunted by a group of my 6th grade “friends” for wearing knock-off designer jeans. As I finished telling these stories, I looked at my son and saw tears streaming down his cheeks. A glance at my daughter revealed a furled brow and scowl on her face. Before I knew it, my son and daughter were empathizing with the little girl version of their mom. I was able to assure them that everything turned out alright. Mamas, don’t underestimate the power of sharing well written literature with your kids!
- Inviting and Valuing Their Contributions: One night, I was taking out the household trash which is absolutely my least favorite chore. My son wanted to hang out with me, so he volunteered to help. He cheerfully went through the house with me, emptying all the trash cans and pulled the outdoor bin to the curb by himself. When I told him how much this meant to me and admitted that I disliked this chore his face broke into a grin. He now looks forward to helping me with trash collection each week because he knows his help makes a difference. Of course, the household chores don’t always run this smoothly! Still, I’ve learned that working alongside my kids and frequently telling them how much I value their contributions is a powerful way to build them up.
This list only scratches the surface of ideas for making heart connections with my kids, but I hope it serves as a creative springboard for you as you seek to nurture and connect with your own kids’ hearts!