School is back in session. Can I get a round of applause for teachers everywhere who are taking our kids for the day to teach them stuff? Summer was awesome but this year it flew by with a ferocity I don’t recall from years past. Maybe it was all the transition at my house but I blinked and it was September.

Each year I get a sort of amnesia about school starting. In my excitement that summer is ending and I don’t have to keep them busy all day long, I forget how busy we will be. I forget that their evenings are going to fill up fast with activities and concerts, clubs and plays, and so much more. I also tend to forget that I need to find a way to stay connected with those kids who are exhausted from school and what-not.

If you are a busy parent, you might be starting to feel this, too, this time of year. My youngest got sad the other night that “no one will play with me” while I was busy and her siblings were just spent and needed alone time. That soon morphed into clingy kiddo and, frankly, I don’t blame her. The start of the school year makes all us a bit crazy-busy. Add to that our own things—work, volunteering, taking care of said children and the household—and we can forget our kids need some pauses with us.

Since taking my first-born to college incredibly far from home, I’m painfully aware how fast childhood flies by. I want to make the most of time with these humans I get to journey through life with before they are grown and gone.

Did you know that a majority of teens tell researchers they wish their parents spent more time with them? (Taken from The Family Dinner by Laurie David) Shut up! Teens miss us? They might not show it, but they desire connection and relationship with us. Relationships take time to build and nurture. So today I have for you four quick and easy ideas for spending quality time with your kids when life can start to get away from us. They are all simple, but it’s sometimes the simplest ideas that we forget about.

1 – Go shopping. I mean take them with you when you need to make that Target run or grab groceries. Not all of them if you can help it. Managing kids in a store can mean more impulse buys. But taking one kid to do something ordinary not only opens the door to conversations about their ordinary life, it shows them how you take care of practical, daily needs. Life skills taught, time spent—that’s a win.

2 – Cuddle on the couch. When they are small, seize every, stinkin’ minute they will let you snuggle! As they grow they might do this less. But sitting down together to watch a show or a movie, or just be with them in the same room, can help you connect and find out what kinds of things your kids are interested in.

3 – Make dinner together. I received a book, years ago, called The Family Dinner. It talked with earnest honesty about the statistical importance of sitting down for a meal together and the long-term benefits to kids. We are talking social choices, communication, grades, healthy living, who they hang out with, and so much more all improved by something as simple as eating dinner together regularly. Asking them to join you in the kitchen while you whip up anything—elaborate or simple, it doesn’t matter—opens the door to more communication.

4 – Mom (or Dad) Dates. This is intentional and takes a bit of planning. But every now and then I remember that I haven’t done something special with each child individually. As a single mom, that takes a bit more planning. But the way my kids’ faces light up when I ask what they’d like to do for a mom-date still makes me smile. It can be elaborate like getting your nails done together or simple like shopping for that thing they need anyway and grabbing Happy Hour slushies from Sonic. But having it on the calendar, set aside for just that child and me is special.

Making intentional efforts to connect with our kids helps us build healthy relationships. And in the busy lives we lead, sometimes we need to be reminded that quality time pays off over time.

How do you make time to connect with your children? Share more great ideas in the comments.

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