Ways To Connect With Your Children At All Ages…


Greetings Parents~

Please let me share with you something that happened to me and my wife. Sarah and I had just finished tucking in our children to sleep for the night, and our then-four year old daughter Jasmine said to us, “Mama, Papa, do you know why I love you?” Sarah and I were taken aback, looked at each other with a small grin, and responded, “No, Jasmine—why do you love us?” Jasmine replied, “Because you listen to me.”

Now please understand that we are not expert listeners—there are many times where we get preoccupied with the myriad of chores and tasks that need to get done. But for Jasmine, we apparently listen to her enough that it causes her to grow in her love for us. Our listening connects us with Jasmine, and she notices it.

This inspired me to sit down, think about, and scribble out a few more ways that all of us can connect with our children—over Christmas break or really anytime of the year. I hope the following list is helpful in inspiring you to connect with your 5th-8th graders. Even though some of them may resist your attempts, please do not give up—all the studies in the world show that Middle Schoolers want our love, acceptance, attention, and encouragement. May the LORD bless you as you strive to continue to meet these healthy needs in fun & healthy ways…

I. Listen to Your Children

A. Look them in the eye.
B. Give them your undivided attention (no multi-tasking while listening!).
C. Seek to understand before you correct, critique, or chide.
D. Empathize, and share with them what the Middle School years were like for you.
E. Smile, and encourage—they are trying their best!

1). As a family, listen to your children:

a). At breakfast
b). At dinner time
c). During Dessert
d). Before Bed
e). During a Car Ride
f). Using the book “201 Questions For Parents & Children”

2). During one on one time, listen to your children:

a). Over lunch
b). Over smoothies/ice cream
c). Before and after seeing their favorite movie with them
d). Playing a board game at home

*During one on one time, let your child know that you are ready to listen to them, that they have your undivided attention (please turn off your cell phones and tablets!). They may not have anything to say at first—that’s ok! There’s nothing wrong with silence when loved ones are together! But even in the silence, your child will see that you really are ready to listen to them, that you really are interested in them, that they really have your attention. And that is very important…

II. Ask Your Children to Teach You Something

A. Find out stuff they’re good at, and ask them to teach you how to be good at that. E.g.:

1). Video games
2). Texting (cell phones)
3). Musical instrument
4). Sports
5). Art, drawing, etc.

III. Meet Them In Their World (& Remember, You’re Traveling to a Foreign Culture! :))

A. Watch their favorite t.v. show with them, even if it drives you nuts!

1). Talk about it with them afterwards—

a). the message,
b). the characters (& which one they like best/least)
c). why they like the show, etc.

B. Listen to one of their favorite songs with them, even if it drives you nuts!

1). Talk about it with them afterwards—

a). the message,
b). the band members
c). why they like the song/band, etc. 

2). Ask them to make you a playlist of their 10 favorite songs.

C. Go to the theater to see a movie that they’re excited about, even if it drives you nuts!

1). Talk about it with them afterwards—

a). the message,
b). the characters (& which one they like best/least)
c). why they like the movie, etc. 

D. Play their favorite video game with them, and expect to get creamed!
E. Read whatever non-school book they are currently reading for fun. Or, if they only read when they’re forced to, read one of their school books with them.

1). Talk about it with them afterwards—

a). the message,
b). the characters (& which one they like best/least)
c). why they like the book, author, etc.

IV. Share with Your Children What You Were Like As a Middle Schooler (Yes, You’ll Have To Go Down the Creaky Steps into That Dark Basement Again!)

A. Did anyone bully you? If so, how did you respond?
B. Did you bully anyone? (Be honest!) Did you stop, apologize, deny, blame others, etc.?
C. Did you get along with your parents? Why or why not?
D. What were some things they did that you loved?
E. What were some things they did that drove you crazy? How did you respond to them?
F. Did you have any problems with your friends? (betrayal, gossip, moving away, etc.) If so, how did you respond?
G. What was your favorite t.v. show?
H. What kinds of sports/activities were you involved in?
I. What did you like to do at night and on the weekends (e.g. in your spare time)?
J. What was your favorite subject in school? Least favorite subject?
F. What was difficult about that time of your life?
G. What was great about that time of your life?
H. Looking back, what would you do differently then knowing what you know now?
I. What would you do exactly the same?

V. Apologize to Your Children

A. Before bedtime, ask them if there was anything you did/said or did not do/did not say that hurt them. Encourage them to be honest by not getting angry at them, pray to God and apologize to Him, apologize to them, and then pray together and ask the Holy Spirit to help you with that particular issue moving forward.

VI. Read the Bible with Your Children

A. This can be for as little as five minutes. Start small. Don’t worry if you don’t have all the answers, have never done this before, or don’t even enjoy reading the Bible yourself. Like Nike, just do it, and do it together! 🙂

B. Have them pick out a favorite story from the Bible, read it, and discuss it.

1). Talk about it with them afterwards—

a). the message,
b). the characters (& which one they like best/least)
c). why they like the story, etc.

C. Go through the passage/discussion questions for the upcoming Sunday’s Bible lesson

VII. Pray to God with Your Children

A. At b’fast, lunch, dinner, at bedtime, really, anytime—talk with the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit together. It’s an amazing privilege and honor!

VIII. Share What Your Relationship With Jesus Is Like Currently

A. How it began (your testimony)
B. What you were like before you surrendered your life to Jesus
C. How you’ve changed/are different now
D. How you stay connected with Jesus now
E. Share your struggles, doubts, fears, joys, triumphs, victories, as well.
F. Ask your children if they have a testimony, if they have a daily relationship with Jesu

IX. Make Healthy & Appropriate Physical Contact on a Regular Basis

A. High fives
B. Tussling the hair
C. Pats on the back
D. Punches in the shoulder
E. Hugs
F. Kisses
G. Verbal Compliments can even have positive physical effects!

X. Miscellaneous Ways to Connect with Your Children 

A. Make ornaments out of the Christmas cards that you receive from friends & family.

1). Punch a hole in middle at the top
2). Run some kind of strong or ribbon through it
3). Attach it to a branch on the tree—voila!

B. Build a snowman, even if you (or your kids) don’t want to. Go all out and get a stick or a pipe, a carrot for the nose, a hat and scarf, etc. Get creative. Then hose it down with water so that it freezes and lasts longer, and take a family picture with your new friend! Be silly with this…

C. Write little encouraging notes and leave them around the house for your children—on their beds, in their drawers, in their schoolbags, in the cases of their video games, on the bathroom mirror, etc. Write down:

1). Something you like about their personality
2). A dream you have for their life
3). Something you’re proud of them about (grades, faith in Jesus, kind heart, etc.)
4). Something noble about their character

D. Serve together! Think of ways to bless your neighbors…

1). After a snowstorm, approach a neighbor and ask if you can shovel their driveway, especially an elderly one, for no charge. If they insist on giving you money for it, say thank you to God and the neighbor and enjoy the gift! You can also ask if you can scrape the snow and ice off their cars if they have been out in the driveway.

E. Ask your children to help you install ITunes on your computer (it’s free) and purchase the following five Christmas songs ($1.29 or less for each)—listen to them and talk about the lyrics!

1). “While You Were Sleeping” by Casting Crowns
2). “Welcome to Our World” by Chris Rice
3). “This Baby” by Steven Curtis Chapman
4). “Mary Did You Know?” by Kutless
5). “Joseph’s Lullaby” by MercyMe

XI. Stay Personally Connected with Jesus

A. Psalm 127:1 (NLT) states, “Unless the LORD builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted.” So please do not neglect getting to know Jesus better—invite Him into your family so both you and He can love and guide and raise your children—which you can do in the following ways starting with just minutes each day:

1). Reading a chapter of the Bible (and then writing down the main point of the chapter and one thing you will do differently in your daily life to apply what you read)
2). Sitting still and quietly, talking to and listening to God
3). Journalling about what God has done for you, what you’re worried about/thankful for.
4). Getting involved in a small group that meets regularly
5). Attending church regularly

Closing Thoughts

Thank you for reading this, and please know that I am praying that God will bless all of you as you strive to connect with your children during this important season in their lives. Please contact me with any comments, questions, suggestions, feedback, etc.

You’re not alone! 🙂