When I think of how I connect with my child now, I reflect on my life recently. Over the past few months of the COVID-19 quarantine, while there have been moments of frustration, cabin fever, and overwhelming “togetherness,” it provided us with the opportunity to bond with our daughter in a way we may have never experienced otherwise. While she’s only 2 years old right now, it is never too early to begin sowing the seeds for a lasting connection with her. Whether you are fostering or have an adopted child of your own, the following suggestions may help start the bond you desire in your heart for your family.
Establish a Special Routine.
For kids, a routine is always beneficial and parents begin to see how important structure is in a child’s life at an early age. From early morning breakfast as a family, or a special book right before bedtime, the routines established early on will make an imprint on your child, and eventually will become a special connection.
The bedtime routine has always been my special connection with our daughter. It starts with a bath, playtime in the tub, song, and dance while getting dressed for bed, and evening prayers in her bedroom. This is a special time that consists of tiny moments only she and I share together as mommy and daughter. It’s our bonding routine, and I make sure not to miss it, if at all possible. Obviously, there are times when daddy has to step in, but since I established this routine, she has come to love bath time, and I can tell she enjoys the one-on-one attention with just me.
Gather in the Kitchen.
Whether you are a cook or just order take out, experiencing meals together as a family or one-on-one with your child will facilitate more interaction and present opportunities for a child to share her day and connect with the parents. Even if it is as basic as baking a batch of chocolate chip cookies in the kitchen, it is an activity done together that will create a lasting memory. Sharing your high and low moments of your day at the dinner table could also be a wonderful way to set up a special routine as well.
Sitting down and reading a book with your child or browsing an age-appropriate magazine will not only give you the bonding time you need with your child, but it is also very calming for the child. No matter what age your child is, a good book will open his mind to a new world. For the younger generation, try taking turns and having your child read some as well. Everyone can participate.
An adolescent may not want to sit in your lap wanting a book read to her, but listening to an audiobook in the car during a scenic drive or road trip would be an alternative bonding experience with an older child. You can discover different topics that she likes or is interested in and discover an entire world while in the car or sitting in your own home. You don’t necessarily have to be traveling.
I have the fondest memories listening to books on tape when I was younger with my dad. To this day, if we take a road trip together, he sets up the audiobooks ahead of time, and we listen and analyze throughout our trip. It’s one of those special things shared between father and daughter.
Explore the Outdoors.
Creating memories in the outdoors is one of my all-time favorite things to do with not only our daughter but friends and family. There’s something about sharing in an outdoor activity together that really brings people together. It gets us out of our house and into God’s beautiful creation, allowing our daughter to explore the intricate world around her. Since we are what you call “homesteaders,” farm animals and a kitchen garden are part of our everyday routine. Going through farm chores is now part of our daughter’s memory bank and a special activity we share together as a family. Because I’m a crazy chicken lady, checking the chickens in the coop and gathering farm fresh eggs is a bonding experience our daughter and I experience together every day.
Getting outside could be as simple as walking the dog, riding a bike down the driveway, coloring with sidewalk chalk, watering plants, planting fresh flowers, or going to a local park or swimming pool. An activity spent outside not only exerts a lot of the extra energy kids have in those tiny little bodies but also creates special moments your child will remember for years to come.
Go on a Road Trip.
Sometimes, getting in the car, turning the radio on, or starting your favorite family playlist is exactly what you need to reset the season you’re in. Just as establishing a regular routine is important, getting out of the house and throwing the routine to the wind is a good way to bond and experience new adventures together. From road trip food to fantastic tunes, interesting eateries to fresh horizons, it’s the experiences that create wonderful memory banks for you and your child. The events in his life are the ones he will look back on as positives in his upbringing.
As a child, I distinctly remember special bonding trips with my dad exploring Tunica Hills and kayak fishing in Grand Isle, Louisiana. The conversations we shared while in the car were always moments to strengthen our relationship between father and daughter. Those are times I’ve always remembered and held close to my heart. Now as a mother, I realize the importance of making all moments intentional.
Expand Your Knowledge.
Visiting a local children’s museum, science museum, aquarium or zoo will also be an exciting but educational experience for you and your child. Learning something is always fun when everyone takes part in the activity and it gives you the opportunity to bond even further with your child.
Because I was the more creative daughter growing up, my father would set aside time and bring me to the New Orleans Museum of Art whenever special art exhibits came to town. These art outings continued throughout my life, and when I had the chance to travel on a business trip to Europe, we enjoyed the spectacular Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam together. I remember thinking how much I appreciate my Dad taking the time out to bring me to the museums, but also continuing that tradition unique to me.
Each child has different interests, but taking time out to share in one with your child will exhibit that you care, but also create memories for a lifetime.
Host a Family Game Night.
Some families enjoy going places, others enjoy staying home, and what better way to work on the parent-child bond than a family fun game night. It can be as easy as Candyland or a challenging game of Scrabble, anything to create unity and foster bonding. It also can encourage teamwork if you are playing a game that is set up with teams, which is a wonderful lesson to learn early on in life.
Show True Affection.
When you think of babies, your first thought usually is cradling, rocking, and singing lullabies to sleep. Even as your child grows, healthy affection is an important component to continue that initial bond. Healthy affection such as hugging, hand-holding, sweet kisses on the forehead, patting on the back, tousle child’s hair, or a quick shoulder rub all provide comfort that each child needs.
Each day, strive to reach 12 hugs with your child. Over time, the consistent affection will serve as a reminder that she is loved, and set the stage for a lasting relationship.
Walk down Memory Lane.
One of the special activities I have just started to do with our daughter is going through home movies of her birth and flipping through early photo albums. Reminiscing with her and explaining the story behind the picture allows time to enjoy special moments and also helps her with self-identity. She sees herself with mommy and daddy, which makes her smile. We have just now started to talk about her birth mother and adoption in hopes these early conversations help with her overall understanding.
Walking down memory lane with your child will allow him to reflect on memories with you and further the family connection. If you are fostering, you can look at photos taken from the beginning of your journey with the child. It will still help establish a bond and start conversations of the early days with him.
Turn off Technology.
Although enjoying a good movie or a nail-biting sports game together is a fantastic way to bond, turning off the devices and having quality one-on-one time together, without distractions, is an even better way to connect with your child.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of life, but slowing down and paying attention to your child will show your child you have the desire to listen and savor your time with her. Establish limited technology times and proper quiet time or what you can “quality time” where you talk, listen, and learn. This time could certainly be over a meal or a walk in the park.
Growing a garden together from seed or seedlings is a sure way to connect as the garden journey progresses through whatever season you are in. Just as you are fostering the connection with your child, nurturing along the way, you are doing the same to the plants in your garden. It’s a good learning experience for your child, but also a chance for you to accomplish a project together. A team effort is always unifying because you are working towards the same goal.
After a successful growing season, enjoying the fruits of your labor with a farm to table snack or meal will make it all worth it.
Participate in Building and Crafting Something.
Along the same lines as planting a garden, grabbing a few tools, and heading to the workshop and building something would be a wonderful bonding activity. Even if you don’t have a handy bone in your body, there’s something for everyone in terms of construction. My younger sister and I would arrange craft activities and schedule a new building or crafting project each summer when we had some downtime in between camps. From constructing a treehouse to simply cutting out paper snowflakes, there’s a small project that will fit each family and bring everyone together.
Find a Conservation Project.
A popular project in recent years has been contributing to the Monarch butterfly population by finding monarch eggs and setting those up in the right environment for further growth. This is a neat way to visibly witness the progress of Mother Nature with your child. From egg to chrysalis to beautiful butterfly, you and your child take part in giving back to Nature and helping do your part.
Celebrate Gotcha Day.
When an adoption is finalized, the judge officially signs paperwork confirming the adoptive couple are the legal parents of the adoptee. This day is known as the child’s Gotcha Day and is usually one of the most important days for the family. Whether the child has been with the couple since birth or later in the child’s life, his or her Gotcha Day is a day of significance and should be celebrated.
Setting up a special tradition each year to celebrate your child’s Gotcha Day is a great way to connect on an emotional level and let her know what a special milestone this day is for the family. Our family had to wait an entire year for our daughter’s adoption finalization, but we celebrated big with a family gathering. I foresee that some celebrations will change in the future, but our daughter will always have a special memory and a special connection to her Gotcha Day because we have made it a priority.
Each family is different, and the activities or adventures that may work with one may not work for another. Finding the right fit that will create strong relationships and a safe space for your child is the focus while always having lots of fun. Children need to feel heard, loved, and supported. As long as you take the time to listen, show your love, and encourage your child along the way, the bond will begin and continue over time.
Legal assistant by day and farm girl by night, Catherine Spivey enjoys the simple life in South Louisiana with her husband, daughter, and a menagerie of rescued farm animals by her side. After walking through several years of infertility, one disrupted adoption, foster parent certification, and many farm animals later, the Lord blessed her family with a beloved baby girl that changed the course of their life and everyone’s in between. Sharing her own experience, hoping to impart wisdom, and encouraging those walking through the beautiful roller coaster ride of adoption has become her passion. Catherine enjoys sharing it all through writing and photography on her blog www.thebayougypsy.com and Instagram @thebayougypsy.