**Contributed by Sam Vickery**
The breakfast needs clearing up, you have friends to meet in half an hour, the weekly shop to do this afternoon, then back to put it all away, clear up, and squeeze in a million more things that need to be done.
As parents, our days are often busy and bustling, whether we go out to work or not. And although these busy days have their pros – we get to socialize make friends, change our scenery, get fresh air and be productive – they can also be difficult and overstimulating for our children.
When they are rushed from pillar to post, and meeting a variety of people both new and familiar, their needs can be swept under the carpet. When we are in a hurry, or distracted with other people, we can miss those vital signals that let us know that our child is struggling.
When these needs go unnoticed and unmet, we are likely to find that our child is no longer able to cope as well in a given situation. They may become snappy or demanding of our attention. Their behavior may take a turn for the worst, or they may become overwhelmed with emotion resulting in a meltdown.
So what can we do to prevent this happening? Here are a few of my favorite things to do to ensure that we remain connected and in tune, no matter how busy we are:
• Make time to connect first thing in the morning and before leaving the house. My two favorites are to cuddle in bed while my toddler nurses after waking, and then to squeeze in a few stories or a quick craft activity before we leave the house. This activity can last as few as five minutes, but it gives us a chance to be still together, and get on the same wavelength for the day. He always leaves the house much happier than if I am rushing around like a whirlwind trying to hurry him out the door. For older children who may not be satisfied with stopping a craft activity so soon after beginning, simply stopping to have a relaxing breakfast and being open to conversation, can be a great way of tuning in to one another.
• Periodically stop what you are doing to check in. Share intimate whispers with your child as they come in to connect with you. My own toddler stands very close to me when he is uncomfortable in a situation. I take this as my cue to offer him a chance to breastfeed, or whisper questions in his ear. If he is uncomfortable, this really helps as he prefers not to speak in front of an unfamiliar crowd. Instead, he can whisper back and let me know what he needs.
• Don’t be afraid to take a break together. When visiting with friends it can be easy to get caught up in conversation and revert to telling your child “Not now, we’ll do it later” when they approach us for connection. Although it is important to fulfill your own need for socialization and can become an issue of control when our children constantly insist on leading our activities, taking short breaks every now and then to play with your child, or read with them, can help them to feel more comfortable and connected and prevent them from becoming agitated and demanding.
• Set clear guidelines for your children. Let them know that you are busy doing this right now, but will be finished in – however long – and will then be able to play with them. Keep your promises.
• Get them involved wherever possible. Busy shopping? Let them pick up the items and put them in the trolly – even little toddlers can throw a pack of rice cakes or pasta in, and feel helpful. Cooking dinner? Get them involved in preparation, choosing vegetables or helping with the peeling. Assess each situation as it comes and try to come up with creative solutions to enable them to become involved.
• For working mothers, use that time immediately after work to re-connect with your child, by grabbing a cup of tea and sitting down with them, before you start getting on with your to do list. Spend 15-30 minutes doing something together with no distractions. Put down your phone and let your child know, you are listening and interested in them. Show them you are enjoying their company.
• And lastly, try to sandwich busy days between quiet ones, to give you all a chance to relax and take things slowly, simply enjoying each other once again.
Do you have any of your own tips for staying connected on those busy days? Why not share them in the comments below?
Sam is the creator of Love Parenting a site dedicated to natural parenting, non conformity and living life to the full. She describes herself as a mama to one spirited toddler, a wife, writer, traveler, childcare professional, dreamer, listener and serial cake eater! Sam is a regular contributor to Positive Parenting Connection.
This post has been linked up to the Tuesday Baby Link Up at I Thought I Knew Mama.