Our favorite ways to build connection with our kids
October 16, 2023
In Episode 85, Sara and Kyle, LPCs, discuss the power and importance of intentional connection. We both understand how busy life can become, especially as the kids get older, but that is why we need to be even more purposeful about how we connect and communicate with our kids. We share some of our favorite activities and games that we use to connect with each of our children.
[Kyle]: Today in our podcast we're going to share all our favorite ways to connect with your kids. You want game idea? You want other ways to intentionally make that connection deeper that goes into adulthood? You're going to get a lot of ideas today from the podcast.
[Kyle]: Hello, and welcome to episode 85 of The Art of Raising Humans. I’m Kyle.
[Sara]: And I’m Sara.
[Kyle]: And we are going to talk today about the power and purpose of intentionally connecting as a family and man, we love the fall, right?
[Sara]: We do.
[Kyle]: But the fall is busy.
[Sara]: It is. Everything-- A lot for us, and I think that's true for a lot of people, because whatever your kids are involved in, it's all going on in the fall, and then you have holidays stacked on top of all that.
[Kyle]: Yes, coming up. Yeah. Well, and there's a lot of football games to watch, right? Is that why it's busy?
[Sara]: So busy because of football.
[Kyle]: And soccer games?
[Sara]: I think soccer. Yeah.
[Kyle]: Soccer too. I love that. So, a lot of things to watch, but really, it's busy.
[Sara]: Yeah, no, it's busy because of all the things, the to-dos.
[Kyle]: Well, the kids are back in school, there's all these new-- I mean, things are getting scheduled. Our calendar is just like…
[Kyle]: It’s like, all these things are popping up. I'm sure most of the listeners can relate to that.
[Sara]: Wonderful things.
[Sara]: There's so many wonderful things to.
[Kyle]: But it's like practice and scrimmages and… Yes.
[Sara]: it’s so much and even field trips and play dates, and all of the things.
[Kyle]: Yeah, all those-- And then, we love it, so we want to go on hikes.
[Kyle]: So, the reason why I thought this podcast would be so helpful is in this busyness, what I've been hearing over and over again, Sara, in the practice is kids who now are later in their teenage years, and there's just not intentional connecting happening anymore, right? And then when I explore with the kids, it’s like “oh, we used to have this thing that we always did” or “every Friday night it was this” or “we had this and now we just don't do that anymore”. I'm like “how come?”; “Because we all got too busy”, you know?
[Kyle]: The work schedule won't work out. Mom and Dad's work schedule with the teenagers work schedule and it's like, slowly but surely, they all started to disconnect, right? And then you find now they're actually trying to talk about big issues, big decisions, which college you're going to go to, what job you can go. But there's a lack of connection to really have those kinds of conversations and so, then the kids just more leaning on their peers instead of their parents because that's who they're spending all their time with, right?
[Kyle]: So, I really wanted to kind of just put a little thought in our listeners heads about, man, and of course, we're in this too, because we've got a teenager now, is just how do we not let the busyness take us over and we intentionally stay connected as a family?
[Kyle]: You know?
[Sara]: Yeah, because I think even sometimes, you're around each other.
[Kyle]: Yes, in proximity.
[Sara]: Right. But you need-- There’s also-- It's not just saying be around your kids, but there's a difference when you're actually connecting with them in that time that you have and some people may say “well, it's just impossible. We have so much”, but you can also just making the most of the time you do have, if there's an intentionality to connect in that time, that can be really powerful too.
[Kyle]: Yeah. I've always thought, Sara, before we ever had kids, I'd love the saying, “families that play together, stay together”, you know?
[Kyle]: I like that. I think that's true. I think some of my best memories of childhood is us playing together and that may look like us playing tennis together, it may look like us camping together, it may look like all-- But those memories, I think those are times I really felt connected to my parents, was when we played together, you know? Now, you were talking about the stat about and this may be alarming to some of our listeners, but tell me about the stat--
[Sara]: It’s alarming to me.
[Kyle]: About our time spent with our kids. Can you share that with us?
[Sara]: Yeah. So, by the time your child becomes a teenager, you've spent 75% of the time you're ever going to spend with them. So, if you take your whole life, their whole life and you say “okay, this is all the time I'm ever going to spend with you before the end, before you move on”, 75% of that's going to happen by their teenage years and then by the time they're 18, 90% of that time.
[Kyle]: Wow. Oh my gosh.
[Sara]: So, I don't know who studied this, I don't remember the source of it, but it just really hit me hard. I thought looking at my teenager thinking “Wow…”
[Kyle]: “75% is done”. Yeah.
[Sara]: And then I've got this little bit left and then that's 90% of the time and then I think as an adult, how much time am I spending with my parents? Of course, there's going to be some variations to some of this, but 90% by the time they're 18.
[Kyle]: I know, yeah, that's a lot.
[Sara]: It is.
[Kyle]: Yeah. So, what are-- If we know that's important and I think everybody listening, that is maybe like “whoa, that does seem like a lot, but that's probably true”, right?
[Sara]: Kind of crying inside a little bit right now.
[Kyle]: Yes, exactly. So, what are the challenges to doing this? Why is it so difficult, Sara, for families to get together and spend time together? I know we hit a few of them on different activities and stuff, but what's some of the other challenges you see to making that happen.
[Sara]: Besides just schedule and busyness? I was going to say habits.
[Kyle]: Yes. That’s good, yes.
[Sara]: You might have the habit of-- We see these teenagers, especially might be in the habit or even a kid, they go in and they go to their game, gaming device or up to their room or on their phone or whatever it might be. Sometimes you see families come in and just go their separate ways and it's just a habit, you know? “Oh, I like this thing, it's relaxing to me” and before you know it, you're all in different rooms doing different things.
[Kyle]: Watching different things. I see a lot of families, they have TVs in each room screens in everybody's hands, and it's easier to avoid the conflict and just say “I'll watch this and you watch that”, you know?
[Kyle]: And so, it's just easier to do that. It's just more fluid. I also find, Sara, if there's a lot of sibling conflict. I find a lot of siblings, it's just not enjoyable then when they come together, because there's a lot of fighting and arguing and I even remember as a kid, sometimes that would happen with us. Every time we played a board game, it turned into a big argument or somebody would cheat to win or something like that. So, it was like “let's just stop doing this”.
[Sara]: Yeah, “why are we spending time together?”
[Kyle]: Yeah. Because you're like “man, when I play with my friends, we don't do this. I'd rather go do that with them”. So, I think a lot of those conflicts, as people get older, that can be an issue. I know for us in particular, we always kind of made it an important thing and not to say this is-- When we share this stuff, this doesn't have to be for you, it's just something that we did. Is we intentionally always only had one TV, and we only had one TV. We used that to watch stuff, and it caused us to compromise. It caused us to have to think about it.
[Sara]: Yeah. It’s not that it's always comfortable.
[Kyle]: Yeah, and once we got a different house, we did get a second TV for the playroom. But even that TV is not used all that often. It typically is we're in the family room, just particularly because you and I didn't want to watch separate things. We wanted to have to compromise there, you know? Because I think that can be a bad habit to get into, if you and I are constantly being drawn into the stuff.
[Sara]: Yeah, it gets more comfortable over time, and you're just separate more and more over time.
[Kyle]: And not to say that's bad.
[Sara]: No. There's times for it. There’s times we do separate intentionally and say “okay, well, they're going to watch this and they're going to watch that, and that's okay this time”. But it is something we think about.
[Kyle]: Yeah, and so, once again, this isn't about bad or good. It's more just like, what are the habits we're creating? And are we intentional about those habits? Are we intentional about coming together? Like, I remember there was a time there for a while where we were watching shows that only the older two could watch and the youngest couldn't, and I remember we would then have her go watch something else on an iPad, right? But then we noticed that became a habit. Like, pretty soon--
[Sara]: It didn't take very long, and next thing you know, she's like “hey, I'll just take my thing and go watch…”
[Kyle]: Yeah. Well, we'd even ask her. We were finally like “oh, you can watch this” and she's like “no, thanks, I'd rather go off and watch my own thing”. We're like “wait, what is happening here?”.
[Sara]: Yeah, yeah.
[Kyle]: So, that's when we talk to the older too about “hey, we need to for a time, let's just focus on integrating her back into this activity rather than her being off by herself.”
[Sara]: And sometimes I'll go-- You know, we've done it where at least there's not an isolation and that's something that's important for us because we do enjoy movies, we enjoy doing that together and then talking about them and that's something that for us, we love and so, we just want to be careful that it doesn't wind up. We want to be intentional about how we're doing that and that we maintain relationship within that, because TV can be something that's real easy to disconnect and everyone's just sort of faded.
[Kyle]: Yeah, off to their own thing.
[Sara]: And we don't want it to become that for us. It's a value that we still stay connected even if we're watching something.
[Kyle]: Yeah. So, it's important. I think we can all agree it's important to be intentional and connect, right? It's important to have these routines specifically for these times. So, I think it's easy to let go of these routines during the busy times and there might be moments where you're being flexible that way.
[Kyle]: But I think it's really important to be intentional of saying “how then are we going to connect?”, right?
[Sara]: We're not asking for a rigidity.
[Sara]: “I don't care what's going on…”
[Kyle]: “Every Friday night is this and I don't care what’s…” Yeah, we're not saying that.
[Sara]: Yeah, yeah, because that wouldn't be…
[Kyle]: But to have an invitation to everybody in the family that this is important, that we are connecting together intentionally, right? And what's so important about that, Sara? What's so important about making space for these moments? Why do we need to be so intentional about coming together as a family and really enjoying each other together?
[Sara]: Well, that connection is important, obviously, for relationship. Because no matter who it is, if you don't spend time with people, not just in the room, but connecting with people, then you lose relationship over time and whoever you are around, those are the people. So, if you think about your children, you think “who do I want them to be really connected to? Is it their friendship group? Is it the coach? Is it me?”. Because it's going to happen. So--
[Kyle]: They're going to connect to something or someone. Yeah.
[Sara]: “How are we going to do that?”. Yeah, and then, you’re always-- You know, I even think I want my kids when they-- I'm hoping that 90% isn't true, right? So, I lay that groundwork now. You have to do that now and I know at the end of the day, your siblings, your family is always your family and so, I want that to be something that's enriching and I don't care if they're 10, 40, 60. I want that connection between them and between us.
[Kyle]: Well, I'm even thinking like the real typical thing a marriage counselor, would definitely recommend if there's conflict in the marriage is, they would say “how much are you guys connecting? How much time are you intentionally spending each other as a spouse?”. I know for you and I, as I look back over 21 years of marriage, there's times where it was more tense and there was more conflict, typically because we were not spending time enjoying each other.
[Sara]: Helps reduce that.
[Kyle]: Yeah, because we got busy and you see that a lot of times with divorces and things like that, there's just less connection because we're all doing these things that seem good and they are good, but we're not being intentional about coming back--
[Sara]: A separation happens.
[Kyle]: Yes, and we slowly-- Then once that separation happens, it's harder and harder to deal with conflict, to do the repair that we talked about on the previous podcast, it's harder and harder to do those things because we're not spending time together, right? And I find even the teenagers I speak to, Sara, they just don't think it's worth the effort, you know? Because the connection's not happening, they know there might be a conflict they want you to help them with, but in order to give you that whole backstory of all that conflict that's been going on, it would just take too long and they don't want to rehash it with you. So, they'd rather just go to a friend who already knows the story and so on. So, we know as kids grow older, they are going to become more independent and that's good. They're going to start finding--
[Sara]: And their circle is going to expand.
[Kyle]: Yes, and that's all good and healthy, right?
[Sara]: It’s going to go with peers.
[Kyle]: So, they're spending more time talking with peers and our time as parents get less and less, like you were saying, right? So, that's why even more so we've got to get that quality time in. Maybe it's not quantity, you know? So, we want to share some of our favorite ways that we like to do this or ways other people we know do this. I remember reading one book by a guy, the book's called Staying Connected with Your Teenager. He did something funny, Sara, where he noticed that more and more as his kid got older and older, he was less and less open to talking about school and saying how his school day went and so, he noticed one night he woke up and was thirsty. He went to the bathroom, went and got a drink of water, saw his son up. It was like 11:00 at night and the son was much more talkative. He was like “hey dad, what's going on?” and he started talking and he was like “That was interesting. He was very open”. So, he purposely, a couple of times a week, set his alarm to wake up at 11, 11:30 at night and would just randomly go get some water and then all of a sudden, he finds out who his son's hanging out with, what people he's romantically interested in and he was like “oh…”. So, for a couple of years it was tiring, but I did it because I needed to stay connected. So, those kinds of creative ideas I think are interesting, you know? But let's share some of the things that we intentionally do and listeners, we'd love to hear back from you about things you intentionally do. Especially we'll be doing some reels this week and next week about this on our social media, on Facebook and Instagram and TikTok, things like that, to where we'll talk about some of these activities that we like to do. But we'd love to hear back from you. So, why don't you share some of the ones you really enjoy?
[Sara]: I like playing games.
[Sara]: So, we do lots of different kinds of card games, board games, whatever kind of game. We'll get new games and try out new ones and find favorite ones. So, I love connecting through games.
[Kyle]: You want to share some of your favorite games now so listeners might--?
[Sara]: Rainbow Pirates.
[Kyle]: Rainbow Pirates.
[Sara]: We were introduced to that from some friends in Colorado.
[Kyle]: The Davidsons. They're awesome.
[Sara]: Yeah, yeah, shout out to them. We love Rainbow Pirates. We've recently-- This is one you and I had done a lot early on, but we've got brought back in Phase Ten.
[Kyle]: Oh, Phase Ten. Yeah.
[Sara]: That's a fun one.
[Kyle]: Uno is a classic.
[Kyle]: Uno flip. Uno wild. Uno whatever. All types of Uno. Kids love that.
[Sara]: And I like games where we're on the same team, so sometimes switching it instead of being competitive against each other. We look for those collaborative games.
[Kyle]: Ticket to Ride, right? We love that.
[Sara]: Ticket to Ride, yeah.
[Kyle]: That’s the one of the trains. We also love--Recently we got one for Father's Day called-- I think it was called Trekking.
[Sara]: Trekking the parks.
[Kyle]: Yeah. So, it was all about doing the national parks, similar to Ticket to Ride.
[Sara]: Yeah, we love travel, so it kind of combines that.
[Kyle]: So, those board games are fun. So, we'd love to hear other ones that you enjoy doing. We've done Exploding Kittens, right? Zombie Kittens. So, those are some fun card games.
[Sara]: We have a long list of games.
[Kyle]: I know. Sequence is great. Rummikub is awesome.
[Sara]: Sushi Go.
[Kyle]: Yes. That's a Skip-Bo. That's another one. So, these are games that, man, when Ellie was as young as five or six, she was playing these with us and they're ones that all the way up to our 13-year-old. We can all sit down. They're fun, they're challenging, and it's a good time.
[Sara]: And the youngest one, sometimes if it's too old a game, we just have her team up. So, she's on one of our teams, so that she can still participate and play, and we just incorporate her that way.
[Kyle]: Okay, and what's some other ways that other things you like to do? I know eating together is important.
[Sara]: Yeah. We do-- Yeah, the stats on that, you can easily find that. There's great stats on having a meal together.
[Kyle]: Yeah, and not sitting in front of the TV and-- I know as a kid; we did that a lot. We just sat in front of the TV and watched--
[Sara]: And sometimes that's so fun.
[Kyle]: I know. It is, yeah.
[Sara]: Grab pizza and a movie; That’s so fun. But we are pretty intentional about trying to have a meal where we don't have phones, we don't have TV, and we're eating and talking together.
[Kyle]: Reading, it’s something that we like to do right with the kids.
[Kyle]: So, I remember reading. I really love Lord of the Rings. I love the Hobbit. I know other books like that, especially since they were little, right?
[Sara]: Oh yeah, they were babies. I mean, as soon as they could sort of be propped up in my lap, I would read to them at night and so, I've read to them since they were probably three months old.
[Kyle]: And I was always surprised how much they loved the stories, you know? How into it they were. No matter how tired we were, we're reading it, the kids really loved it. It was a great way to continue the connection because then they'd look forward to the next night, we'd read some more stories. So, I think reading and then what we wanted to cultivate was just a habit of reading, to where even we could connect by everyone getting their favorite book and reading, you know? So, where like, that's something that we've seen happen as they've gotten older would just been a cloudy, rainy day, perfect for reading. Maybe get the fire on and we could sit back and just read a book. We're all reading our books together, and then we're sharing those stories together and then a lot of times, those stories what I love, Sara, is those books turn into movies, you know? There'll be a movie about that book, and then we can watch that movie together and share that experience, you know? So, I think another one I really enjoy you alluded to it earlier, was movies and particularly shows and these aren't just random ones, these are ones I'm very intentional about about movies that I think played a big part in our childhood, right? And I'm sure a lot of people listening, the Star Wars movies. Even I'm looking forward to this, is kind of the nerd in me, but the Star Trek movies, I want to enjoy those because I did that with my dad as a kid. We always went and saw Star Trek at the movie theater, so I want to include those. But The Lord of the Rings movies, the Marvel movies, there's all types of different ways.
[Sara]: Even our childhood favorites.
[Sara]: And even if they weren't even that good, we watched Homeward Bound recently because that was just a big deal way back.
[Kyle]: Yeah, yeah. But even then, they get to get a peek into your childhood that way, right? There's that connection where it's not just a movie, it's not just like a time waster. It's intentional about the movie I'm sharing with you and the memories that you had watching that movie and so, I just think even being intentional, some of the shows, particular shows that we liked as kids or even shows that they like as kids. Like, right now--
[Sara]: Oh, yeah, we watch their shows with them.
[Kyle]: What's the show that they can't have enough of right now?
[Sara]: How to train a dragon. Yes, how to train a dragon and so, if you know this, there's movies, there's shows, and--
[Kyle]: Dragons: race to the edge, all this kind of stuff.
[Sara]: Yes, and so, we watch all of those and Bluey, and we will sit down, and even though it wouldn't be my first choice, I will sit and watch it with them. I'll put down my stuff. Sometimes I might work, but I prioritize “okay, let's put this down. Let me watch it with you”, because it means something to them. They notice when I actually watch the show, and I'm engaging in it with them and laughing at the jokes.
[Kyle]: I had a really funny conversation with our son the other day where Paw Patrol has come back into the mix, right? And he was a huge Paw Patrol fan when he was really young, but hasn't watched Paw Patrol for many, many years. But now his sister has discovered it, and now he's loving watching it with her and it's interesting. That's another thing where, yes, they're watching something. They're not talking together, but he is excited about sharing that with her.
[Sara]: Yeah, he's sharing his favorite episodes.
[Sara]: He’s like “oh, you need to watch this one”.
[Kyle]: He wants me to get a Paramount Plus subscription, so he can now-- So, he's like “dad, get a Paramount so we can now watch this” and I love that, that he's doing similar to what we've been doing of “yeah, I want to share this with you. I want to give you a piece of this childhood to you”, right? So, other ways we connect is we love the outdoors, so hiking, camping. I mean, some of my favorite memories were--
[Sara]: Outdoor fire pit.
[Kyle]: Yes, sitting around the fire doing s'mores. These are all intentional ways--
[Sara]: Bike riding.
[Kyle]: Yes, and then also, they do sports. There's sports that we enjoy. We have teams we support; we support those teams together. The kids love it when those games are on. We enjoy that time together.
[Sara]: And we try-- And for the most part, when one of them has a game, we try to all go to the game. Sometimes we can't, but for the most part, we try to go just supporting each other.
[Kyle]: But what I love about even when they're into adulthood, that could be something that's on TV and call them whether somewhere else “hey, are you watching the game?” and then we talk. I'm just thinking like, I'm trying to think of ways I stay connected to friends who live all over the country, and it's through these kinds of ways that we do that. Like “hey, what's the book you've been reading lately? I'm going to read that book” or “hey, what's the movie you watch? I'm going to go watch that movie” and so, connecting through those ways and another one that you're really intentional about, Sara, is the holidays. About-- I mean, just this weekend, you spent time kind of decorating the house for the fall, putting more fall stuff up. Ellie was helping you with that. So, the kids connect with you through this feeling of putting these fall things up and, why is that so important to you?
[Sara]: Well, I think for me, I think back, my mom made the holidays really magical. That's one of my favorite memories and those traditions, a lot of people will mention when they're older, they'll mention the traditions of their childhood and so, I just want to be intentional about creating this sense of warmth and connection and relationship and for me, through the tradition of the holidays and creating that atmosphere they remember. They tell stories from years ago of different things we've done and so, I want to just help build those memories and sense of connection.
[Kyle]: And the last one would be our road trips. We love to do road trips.
[Sara]: We do. Yeah.
[Kyle]: So, we love that the kids really enjoy the adventure of a road trip and so, once again, that's a real important, really-- A real way to intentionally connecting. You have all that time in the car to talk, all that space to bond and that's something that to me, up into college, I was doing these fantastic road trips with friends, and I remember all these great memories and all these adventure states that we've never been to before.
[Sara]: The things you see playing games in the car or we bring those cards that are questions, you know? “If you had to eat this or this…”
[Kyle]: Yeah, what if type questions. Yeah. “Would you rather…?”
[Sara]: Yeah, yeah. “If you could go anywhere in the world…?”, those kinds of things. So, we'll do those in the car.
[Kyle]: Or even like you did that one that was called rubber neckers and that was where you're trying to get other people in other cars to honk their horn, see and catch them picking their nose. So, we're all like, on the same page, trying to find-- You get points for those things, and that's really fun.
[Sara]: Yeah. When you find that thing, you get that card, you get those points. Anyway, it's a fun card game if you're traveling and you're trying to not do screens and you want something else to engage everybody. It's kind of a silly one.
[Kyle]: But even like, on the road trips, I love how intentional we are about that. There are times where they're all watching a movie together because the road trips are long, right? And there's fun things. That's a memory too, watching the movie. But then when we're done with that, there's other ways to connect, other games--
[Sara]: Bingo. Yeah. Looking for license plates.
[Kyle]: I remember when we saw Hawaii, a license plate and then Alaska. It was like “yes!”.
[Sara]: And Rhode Island. Just try to find Rhode Island, people.
[Kyle]: Yes, and we were all so excited.
[Sara]: We have seen every license plate from every state.
[Kyle]: Yes. That was so fun.
[Sara]: Yeah, it was magical to see Hawaii. It was on a trailer too. The other one I want to say that I feel like is a really important daily connection for us, even when it's really inconvenient. We say goodnight to our kids, we go to their room, we kind of connect. Even if it's just a real short check in, but man, do they open up.
[Kyle]: They do. Yeah.
[Sara]: That's when they really talk and yeah, sometimes we have to kind of rush it, but when we can sit and just enjoy that. Similar to when he's waking up at 11:30. You know, I always want to make a point to have even a mini, just sort of check in. It's just one on one. Now we do it separate. So, I'll go in and say goodnight to my daughter or my son or whatever and have that point. I think it’s a--
[Kyle]: And that they know it's going to come every night. They know if they need to talk, it's going to be there, right?
[Sara]: Yeah, they have a little window to--
[Kyle]: The busyness, the tiredness. We just don't do it anymore, right?
[Sara]: And there's no siblings around, you know? And things have slowed down enough. Sometimes my son especially, he'll say “you know, sometimes these things happen. I don't even think to tell you until I'm going to bed at night and then I remember all this stuff” and so, giving him that window is great.
[Kyle]: So, I hope this helped give you some ideas about ways to intentionally connect with your family. Because I can't emphasize it enough how if you want to have a teenager who's going to be open to you and going to talk about this stuff, it's only going to happen through you intentionally connecting and having these kind of family routines in place. So, I hope this was helpful to you. We'd love to hear your thoughts back because maybe you got some cool games.
[Sara]: I know. We're looking for more ideas.
[Kyle]: Yes, we'd love more ideas to send them. So, send them our way.
[Sara]: More games, more other ideas of connecting that maybe we haven’t thought about it.
[Kyle]: We really enjoy that and so, I hope you're enjoying the fall and I hope you're going to be inspired by this to find ways over the holidays to make that connection deeper and deeper with you and your kids.
[Sara]: Thanks for listening.