Becoming more engaged parents
It has often been said that parenting is part joy and part guerilla warfare. Regardless if you live in a small house in a big city or a big house in a small town raising children is difficult.  Even the best parents “check out” at times to refresh or simply forget about the current issue at-hand.  How often have you caught yourself muttering “hmm, huh, yep, okay” to your child?  Pretending to listen to your kids while following-up on a text and regrettably saying “oh yes, okay honey, go and have fun”. Unfortunately, technology, responsibility and every day demands are occupying more and more of our time.  The world is pulling us in every direction and many times pulling us away from the fleeting moments with our children.

If you are looking to be more “present” in your child’s life you need to get more involved.  You are probably thinking “what does it mean to be present and involved”. Well the answer is simple, being an involved parent refers to your ability to participate in your child’s life by spending quality time with them, listening and guiding them on a daily basis.  It also means stepping away from technology, forgoing “me time” and putting aside your own issues.  Being an involved parent takes effort but comes with tremendous rewards such as creating a deeper relationship, building unique and fun memories, having great conversation, and getting the chance to watch your child grow into a responsible adult.

Getting “involved” is well worth the effort and means more joy and less warfare.  Here are 10 easy-to-implement ideas to get engage.

  1. MAKE THE EFFORT As with most things in life, getting involved, starts with effort.  Stop making excuses and start making little changes.  Make a personal commitment, set goals or create a new habit that gets you involved.  You need to be willing to disrupt your current day-to-day routine to make this needed change.  If you are unwilling to put forth the effort don’t expect anything in return.  Sure, there might be days when you will feel so burnt-out that your son’s soccer game or your daughter’s recital seem like annoyances.  However, it is these moments and not the unnecessary Facebook post that will be cherished.

  2. FOCUS Our children deserve more than a nod and a glance.  They deserve our full, undivided attention. When they talk to us, make a request, or ask for help, we need to be “present” in that moment. We have to be able to look them in the eye, get down to their level to really show we care about them and we are ready to assist in any way we can. When attending to your kids, you don’t need to be multi-tasking at the same time. Put away your phone, that text to your friend can wait.   Learn to give your kids all of you and you will be amazed how much your relationship improves.

  3. ESTABLISH TOGETHER TIME kids get older, they seek more independence and look to create separation from their parents.  As we all remember, spending time with parents isn’t cool. However, no matter how much they push us away our kids really do want quality time with their parents. Now by quality time, I don’t mean just being in a room with your kids and the TV turned on. You should establish a regular weekly routine of doing something special with your kids.  Create a schedule when you can take the kids out to breakfast; go for a walk or play a game. Try to find interests and hobbies you both share and use those as together time.  Although not popular with most kids, you can sharer time by performing some house chores together and engaging in casual conversation.

  4. REMEMBER THEIR SPECIAL DATES As a parent there should be nothing more important than cheering an achievement or celebrating a birthday.  Everyone likes to have their moment and to be recognized.  Don’t let your kids downplay the event because deep down they want these moments to be shred. Therefore, you need to set a calendar for your kids special dates, and make plans in advance for them rather than making up excuses later. Kids need to know that their parents are very excited about their accomplishments and are willing to support them. So make it a priority to attend their games if you have been missing them and you will be surprised as to the extent your action will cheer them up

  5. BE INVOLVED IN THEIR SCHOOL ACTIVITIES Studies have shown that parental involvement in their kids’ school activities has a direct correlation to their academic success. No matter how busy your schedule, you should make time for your child’s academics by attending parent-teacher conferences, reviewing homework and asking questions about what they have learned.  Showing interest in what your kids are learning will make them perform better and stay more engaged in their studies. Attending school functions and programs will also support their academic progress and make you an involved parent.

  6. EAT MEALS TOGETHER Having meals together as a family provides a great opportunity to bond with your children. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA) recently reported on a national phone survey of 1,000 teens and 829 parents of teens, eating dinner as a family helped kids in many ways. It helped them get better grades, and kept them away from cigarettes, alcohol, and marijuana, and more.  Use these times to talk about the day’s events, how their day went and what challenges they faced during their activities. These discussions will help you learn t more about your children, their school work and how they feel each day. You are also more likely to uncover any problems and issues.

  7. SCHEDULE REGULAR FAMILY MEETING Family meetings are a great way of enhancing communication between parents and children.  At these scheduled meetings there is the ability to clear the air of tension, eliminate confusion and uncover hidden issues.   When conducted appropriately, each family member feels heard and feels that they have a say in the family happenings.  Most importantly a sense of belonging and inclusion is built. Keep in mind, kids demand fairness so establish ground rules that are evenly applied to all.   Everyone should have an equal opportunity to talk, raise questions and offer suggestions without getting a negative feedback. The forum should be free of all blames and finger pointing

  8. BE SUPPORTIVE AND OFFER PRAISE We all want someone to support, encourage and motivate us. We want someone to pat us on the back and say to us “hey you did great” or “don’t worry you will get it next time”. Kid’s, in particular, need this type of feedback from their parents. However, too much praise can backfire and make kids afraid to try new things for fear of not receiving praise that has become too commonplace.  Instead of praising the outcome try praising the process. keep your support real and make a simple observation about what they have accomplished.

  9. SHARE THEIR ENTHUSIASMS As adults, we have learned to live in a cynical world.  We often forget how to play and use our imagination.  Unfortunately, our jaded attitude often spills-over onto our kids.  As a result, we stop our kids from dreaming and exploring all the possibilities. Keep in mind, children tend to learn faster through play. We need to encourage creative play and join them in these activities.  Explore make-believe worlds with them and feel the excitement as they do.   Don’t be scared to make a clown of yourself because the more you play with your kids, the more comfortable they get around you and the more you are involved in their lives. You will be amazed as you explore these imaginary worlds how much your kids have to share about the real world.

  10. DON’T SKIP DISCIPLINE Contrary to what some parents believe, children who are not regularly disciplined are not happy. In fact, failure to discipline children often results in kids who are unhappy, angry, and even resentful. Not only is discipline needed to support the development of friendships but to support the relationships within a family. Discipline is a crucial element and an effective part of being involved in your child’s life. The act of disciplining offers the opportunity to talk with your kids.  The opportunity to explain what they did wrong and providing guidance on the right behavior.  Of course, how we discipline is very important. Disciplining does not mean yelling or losing one’s temper.  Positive discipline means controlling your temper and communicating effectively.

There is no greater responsibility or reward than engaging in your child’s life.  It is all about creating quality moments, not quantity, that is the most important.  Stop feeling guilty for working late or not being able to go to a school function.  Instead, focus on those moments that you are together.

We also recommend the use of technology to better manage your day-to-day tasks.  Apps like DawgHoused (available via Android and iOS) include tools to help you stay organized by creating reminders for all your kid’s activities.  Plus, there are added features to manage gift wishes, create to-dos and store important personal information.  It’s like having a pocket personal assistant.  If only it could do laundry and make meals as well.