When my children were small they rarely went anywhere without their father or I. We knew everything they did and everything about them. We were their whole world.
As babies they were always close. They were breastfed, worn in a sling and slept beside us.
As toddlers the physical connection between us was still strong. They often sought a hand to hold or arms to pick them up. When something went wrong a cuddle or a kiss and the safety of Mum or Dad’s lap could fix anything. They came to us at bed time to be helped to sleep and no matter how bad the day had been, those quiet, calm moments reconnected us and smoothed out the bumps of the day.
These days, my big kids are getting more and more independent. Their world is expanding and as they venture out into it we are no longer with them every moment of every day. As they have grown, the innate, easy, every day physical closeness has lessened and changed.
At eight years of age, my girls don’t need to be rocked to sleep as they did when they were tiny, but that doesn’t mean that a quiet moment laying next to them in bed, drawing on their backs or rubbing their feet isn’t important.
There are many ways that you can physically and emotionally connect with older kids…
1. Touch still matters: Look for new ways to be physically affectionate with your child. Perhaps they won’t hold your hand in public anymore but spending time curled up on the couch together ‘drawing on their back’ or just a quiet moment lying side by side as you chat, read or watch TV can help you reconnect. Older kids can also connect by giving physical affection as well as receiving it. A Ask for a shoulder rub, a cuddle or even a mani or pedi. My kids are all becoming experts at back massaging which relaxes me and makes them feel important too.
2. Words matter too: In the busy lives of tweens and teens it can be difficult to find lots of time but simple, regular words of affection take very little time at all. Be sure to welcome them as you reconnect at the end of each busy day, say ‘good morning’ and ‘good night,’ and ‘I love you’ often.
3. Have fun together: Simply doing something active that your child enjoys can reconnect you in a fun way. Shoot hoops together, join them in a game of backyard cricket or laugh your way through a round of Just Dance, or for something less strenuous, invite them for a quick game of Uno.
4. Give them space: As children get older, privacy can become more of an issue when it comes to showing physical affection. They may feel embarrassed to seek out a hug at school when they are trying to be ‘grown up’ but in reality they still may need (and want) one. Finding a time and space where they feel comfortable is important, as is explaining that everyone needs a hug sometimes, no matter how ‘grown up’ they may be.
5. Just be there: I find being with my children physically when they are stressed or upset is also important. I can talk logic and reason to my worrisome child until I am blue in the face but in reality, oftentimes I just need to be there. To listen, and sometimes even to offer a cuddle or to hold a hand.
It is a pleasure to watch our kids grow up and head out into the world…. but sometimes it is a little bittersweet and I find myself missing that physical closeness and connection. But just because they don’t need the constant physical affection that a baby demands, doesn’t mean it is not important to find ways to continue that connection.
For all of us.
How do you connect with your older kids?
For more great ideas for creating moments of connection in your family, check out 10 Everyday Rituals That Mean So Much to Your Kids.