For many families on a traditional school schedule, the summer months mean that there is no school for the kids. Often times, whether you are a working parent or stay at home parent, you hope to use these months to re-connect with your kids. In the absence of nightly homework, early morning carpools, and last-minute Google searches on “what is a diorama and how to make one”, we think we’ll have more time together; but before you know it, you blink and we’re halfway through their summer vacation.

It’s easier than we like to admit to get caught up in the day-to-day tasks – making dinner, cleaning the house, getting laundry done – and we forget how to sit and engage with our kids. So here’s a couple of quick tips to help you be more present and re-connect with your child(ren) before the start of the next school term:

Remember that time you were completely obsessed with [insert your childhood obsession here] and could talk to anyone and everyone for hours about it? As kids, we are seeking to been seen – for others to hear what we say and to know that someone cares enough about us to listen. So whether it’s your teenager enamored by a new band or artist, or your elementary school child who wants to regale you with their love for all things Hatchimals, try to set aside your bewilderment at why they like what they do, and just let them tell you about it.

Whether you spend your days at home together or your parenting time begins when you get home from work, life is hectic and busy. Sometimes trying to get your child up and dressed for the day can feel like a Herculean task. So you may have to be more intentional in how you set aside time to connect. Quality and authenticity matter here. Here are a few suggestions:

♦ For younger kids, try setting a goal of 30-minutes of uninterrupted play time together. That means no screen-time (for either of you!) and let them direct what you do.

♦ For your older kids, consider a more organized activity you can do together – a game of GoFish! or Uno, kicking or throwing a ball around together, or riding bikes around the neighborhood. As you play, ask them about how they are doing, what’s going on with their friends, or about their interests.

♦ For your tweens and teens, just sitting down to talk with one another can be powerful. Consider grabbing a snack and sitting on the porch together to check-in; or make dinner time a phone-free time for everyone, so you can have a conversation about your day and what’s been happening in their lives lately.

You’ll notice the theme regardless of your child’s age is intentional, mindful time together, and asking about them while you do.

Despite our best efforts, inevitably, things will not go according to plan. We will miss a game we meant to make or snap at our kids when we are overwhelmed – we have bad days and it can sometimes impact how we behave. Remember the same holds true for your kiddos. Sometimes they may not want to connect with you and so you’ll need to be flexible.

Keep in mind, connecting now when the days are long and they have less going on will make maintaining your connection that much easier once the school year begins. Every day is a new opportunity to get to know your child and have the type of relationship that you want.