GUEST BLOG POST: Filling Your Child’s Memory Bank by Susan Newman, Ph.D.
(Adapted from Little Things Long Remembered: Making Your Children Feel Special Every Day by Susan Newman, Ph.D.)
Life swirls at a hectic pace, putting a high premium on finding family time. Amid busy schedules, technology steals more available time than ever before. With so many young children—and parents—enamored with the mesmerizing glitz of electronic screens, digital devices are taking over family in subtle ways parents may not even notice. What will happen to family bonding when kids spend more time with screens than with their parents as many already do?
Children are going to look back on their childhoods remembering only that they could not get their parents’ undivided attention…or you theirs. It’s more important than ever to return to basics.
Whether you have a few minutes, half an hour, or more time on a weekend, starting traditions and creating a backlog of warm memories with your children are easy, especially if you follow the Cardinal Rules:
The Cardinal Rules
- Don’t let too much time pass between “little things.” Make one a day your absolute minimum.
- When time is short, deliver a hug, a kiss, and a daily, “I love you.”
- Give up some social commitments to carve out more time to spend with your children.
- At home, focus as much as possible on your kids.
- Put away electronic devices so you can really “be” with them.
- Save some energy during your busy day to enjoy your sons and daughters.
- Don’t decrease discipline because you feel guilty about the time you spend at work or away from your children.
- Choose activities you like; children can tell when you are not having fun and are “faking it.”
- Forget attempts to make picture-perfect memories.
- Often the mistakes or the unexpected things are what kids remember best. Mishaps can be hilarious and make loving family memories for all.
- Repeat, repeat. Repetition creates tradition and is the key to happy memories of growing up … and to glowing memories of you.
- Remember, the most precious time is the time spent with your children.
It is never too late to start a routine that makes everyone feel wanted, happy, and special. Your attention will make your children feel good about themselves, and their delighted responses will be your big reward. Try giving a few of the following ideas your all. They require surprisingly little effort:
Develop a kiss that is unique to your family—your trademark. Maybe it’s two pecks on the tip of the nose, one peck on each cheek, or one long, two short kisses on the forehead.
Use a photo your child has taken as your screensaver or wallpaper on your computer and other devices …or ask him for help in choosing the image to display.
I Chose You
Tell your child how much you enjoy being his parent. Children like to hear that they are loved and fun to be with.
Every day ask your child what she did that day that she is proud of. Helped a friend? Did well in a game? Received a good grade? Brushed the dog?
Have a “chain call” to bring everyone to the table: Pam calls Lisa, Lisa calls Beth, and Beth calls Pete. Or ring a bell to call the family together.
Lumpy Vases and Paper Flowers
If your child made it, find a special place for it—not in a bottom drawer or on a closet shelf. Take his “bowl” to the office to hold paper clips or put it on a counter for holding keys, scissors or eyeglasses. Put fake flowers in her leaky “vase.”
May I Have This Dance?
After dinner, turn on some music and dance with your child for a few minutes.
Small parcels of time well used assure stellar memories and family unity—the glue that holds family together. With “little things,” your family can build traditions and memories by embracing ordinary daily activities, loving nightly rituals, and other short but sweet ideas for family love that lasts a lifetime.
Social psychologist and parenting expert Susan Newman is the author of Little Things Long Remembered: Making Your Children Feel Special Every Day and 15 other books in the relationship and parenting fields. Her research and books examine such areas as only children, grandparenting, interactions between adult children and their parents and work-life issues, among others. She writes a parenting blog for Psychology Today magazine. Dr. Newman is a member of the American Psychological Association, the Authors Guild, and the American Society of Journalists and Authors and is a Court-Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for abused and neglected children. Visit her website: www.susannewmanphd.com.