We’ve heard the saying, “Parenting means you’re never alone… but it does get lonely”. With our little one’s crawling up and down our legs – it can be hard to get a minute to think, let alone plan a social calendar. Even when we’re catching up with a mate and ‘talking families’ these connections are often filled with distractions (like the kids singing, “Snack…Snack…. SNACK!”).
But we know that being connected with family or friends is important not just for our kids but for the grown-ups too. Connection is good for our health, helps us build confidence and brings happiness to our lives.
So, how do we stay connected while we’re managing our busy schedules? Where do we even begin if we’re trying to reconnect with our mates? Especially if some of our relationships have changed since adding kids to the mix.
First, knowing it’s okay, and even normal for our circles to change throughout life takes a lot of pressure off. It doesn’t mean it’s forever. If things are busy, spelling out to our mates that they mean a lot, but they have to be patient with us, is sometimes a necessary step. Communication is key.
And if you’ve moved to somewhere new, or lost touch with friends or relatives, be patient with yourself. It takes time to build up social groups and support networks, especially as a busy parent. In the meantime, connecting with people in small ways can add a bit of cheer to your day. Simple things like giving the neighbour a wave, chatting to your local coffee shop owners, or making small talk with another parent at the park. Being open to different cultures, opinions, and ways of life can also enrich our lives and widen our network. If you get a bit nervous meeting new people, keep in mind that they often like us more than we realise!
And if you’ve already got a bunch of mates but find it hard to make time – bite size connections are a lot easier than big events. Asking a neighbour to drop by so we can take a snooze or a shower (heaven with a new-born!). Calling a mate for ten minutes during lunch when you’ve been out of touch. Or maybe it’s about doing stuff with your mates that the kids will enjoy too – like a movie, or family-friendly cafes. Joining Dads group or Mums group with people who are flexible because they’re juggling kids too. Or simply organising a chat over a cup of tea instead of a big outing. We all take a “time out” from parenting every now and again so, leave the parent-guilt at home and find new ways to connect with people that work for you.
Sharing the care – thoughts on grandparenting
Cheryl Vardon, Principal Commissioner at the Queensland Family and Child Commission and a beloved grandparent, shares her thoughts.
Parents are busier than ever before, so it’s a good idea to involve grandparents and older people in sharing the care. Grandparents and older people play an invaluable role in children’s lives. They offer the new generation insight into the world before their time. They carry the wisdom of a lifetime of growing and learning. And they’re patient and forgiving. They know mistakes must be made in order to grow.
Here are Cheryl’s tips to help grandparents make their time with the kids extra special:
- Share your fun memories with the kids: Think back to when you were the same age as your kids. Share some of the funny things you got up to, especially the things have that taught you life-lessons. Sharing these stories is entertaining, builds trust and connection, and normalises all sorts of feelings and complexities childhood brings.
- Pass on your family traditions: Sharing family traditions and rituals are one way of giving a kid’s consistency and creating special moments. Consider what traditions have been special to you, and then think of simple ways the kids can learn them. If you don’t have any family traditions, then what is more special than making some? Planting a tree together, watching a movie, building a memory box, or baking a special recipe are wonderful places to start.
- Teach the kids a skill that they can’t learn at school: Grandparents learned all sorts of things that kids these days don’t know. Think back to favourite hobbies and consider how you can pass these on to the kids. Today’s kids don’t have the opportunity to knit, garden, and build like we did!
- Get the kids to teach you some skills: Today’s children are the masters of new technology. Why not get creative while getting them to teach you some new skills. Why not make a video together to share with others!
- And if you need support with caring for the kids, or you know a parent that needs support, reach out!
An activity for grandparents and grandchildren to do together
Click the image below to download this fun activity for children and their grandparents – or special older person – to do together.
“Keeping Connected While Parenting” is a guest post from Talking Families, and appeared in our print issue 39, April/May 2020.
If you need support when it comes to raising children, or you know a parent that needs support, reach out.