The last couple of weeks I’ve been talking about Value and the importance of Valuing not only yourself but those in your world. I can’t stress how paramount this is. As you value yourself and others it’s amazing how your world changes.

Today I found myself thinking about our children and was reminded of all the challenges kids are faced with today. Unlike any time in history we are connected in a way that is unprecedented and it’s only going to get more ‘invasive’. Yes, brace yourself, connectivity is only going to increase which means the need to connect as family, in a face-to-face manner is possibly more important than ever. As parents, you face the competition of the Xbox, iPad, iPhone, FaceTime and the list goes on. With all of this connectivity the need to connect in real time and (as I said) face-to-face is even greater.

The pressure kids are under, simply because of this connectivity, scares me a little. It scares me because they get no rest from their school, extra-curricular, church, little athletics or whatever group they belong to. The pressure is sometimes hidden from parents, which is why I titled today’s article as ‘Walk A Mile In Their Shoes’.

Children are amazing creations… they are simple yet can be complex and in today’s society I would suggest that complex trumps the carefree days we all experienced as children. Think back to your childhood…. When you wanted to ‘hang’ with a friend you made plans that (in most cases) your parents were aware of. Your connectivity happened, for the most part, through the family phone that for some of us ‘more seasoned people’ hung on the kitchen wall and we had to ask to use it. Today, things are very different, children are connected, not only with people in their immediate world whom they want to be connected with but they are also connected with people outside of that space, perhaps people they don’t necessarily want to connect with. In addition to that, they are then connected to people who live far beyond those walls, people whom they have never, nor will they probably ever meet face-to-face. These people are the one’s our children meet via Social Media (if your kids are old enough) or even innocent games and websites like Animal Jam or MineCraft.

Indeed, without us even knowing, our children connect with the outside and greater outside world in a way that we never, ever did.

Why do I say ‘Walk A Mile In Their Shoes‘. I say this because engaging with your children and meeting them where they are creates space and trust for meaningful conversations. Your children need to know that you hear them and that you understand them. By ‘Walking A Mile In Their Shoes’ you get the opportunity to see, to hear and to understand more ably the pressures, the joys, the excitement and sadly, the failures your children will and do experience.

Parents, it’s encumbant upon all of us to appropriately invade their space by engaging with them. How do you do this? Here are some ideas that have worked for Rob and myself through our years of parenting:

1.Television: If they love Pepper Pig talk about what she does on the show, talk about the other characters and how the story ended up. To keep the conversation going and interesting, tell them what you like about her. This may sound silly but trust me, it will be part of you setting a strong foundation of mutual interest and respect for each other in the future. If you find this challenging, just think about how adults connect over a conversation about their favourite shows and make it age appropriate.

2. Cooking: Many children love to cook. Set time aside where you can make a mess and cook something together. Let them help with the whole process, deciding what to cook, getting out the ingredients and putting it all together. This process takes lots of talking and co-operating, it is relationship building. Make sure you keep some so the others in the family can enjoy what you’ve created. Also, make sure they are part of the clean up… this too is all part of the relationship building. Through cooking, you will accomplish Accomplishing something together that you can both be proud – this is very important and the key word is TOGETHER.

3. Activites: If they enjoy things like Little Kickers, dancing, gymnastics etc., go the extra mile and get on google with them and find out lots of interesting things about their interest. Print out some pictures and write out some points about it all. Keep it very simple and get them involved by gluing on the pictures or drawing some. Put them up on the wall or in a book of some kind so they can show other members of the family or friends. You could even write a little story of just a line or two to go with it. This will give them a sense of pride, build their interest and confidence and will build your relationship with them. The key here is to keep it simple and fun

4. Outings Together: Take them to special places like sport events such as footy, musicals local or a trip to the city perhaps for a visit to the aquarium. Always bring a little something home so they can keep as a reminder of the outing. Put your little something in a prominent spot and keep referring to  the great time you had together. This builds priceless memories for both of you.

5.Social Media (Instagram | Facebook): Put your good times together and share them on your chosen Social Media space. This lets them see how proud you are of the good time you had together. That the time you have spent with them mattered. Just watch their little faces shine and their chests go out with pride.

I promise you, as you put the extra effort in now {whilst they are this little} you are building a firm foundation that is easily built upon as they grow. There is a wonderful and true saying that says “what you sow is what you reap”. I believe this and have seen it in my own life. If you want a strong and healthy connection with your children, you need to be deliberate about it and go the extra mile. This, you will never regret. Rob and I are so glad we put the extra effort in during those early years because now we are reaping the benefits of having strong, healthy connections with our adult children.

As always, I hope this helps and encourages you to be the parent you hope to be. I’ve heard it said before that we are children for only a short time yet our childhood stays with us an impacts us for a lifetime. Enjoy them.

Much love,