Sitting at the kitchen table, my son suddenly jolted up from his chair and yelled at me. “You don’t even care about me,” he screamed in tears as he ran toward his room. His hurried run up the stairs and the slam of his door had me completely off guard and earned me a stern look from my wife. Focused on my smartphone, I missed that my son had shared how he defended himself successfully against a bully.
But, wrapped up in my work on my phone, I had created a painful disconnect. I’d focused on everything but my son. The first step to being more present for our kids is to understand what causes a disconnect between parent and child. Here are 5 everyday things that disconnect you from your kids.
1. Bringing Work Home With You
For many of us, home is now work too. This makes it much harder to create healthy boundaries between work and parenting. We need to have work-free time with our kids to make sure we’re giving them the time we need to stay close.
2. Not Caring for Yourself
The stress associated with work, parenthood, and being the breadwinner—and the lack of balance that can come with that—takes its toll. When we’re spending all our time tending to the needs of others and not our own, we can become tired and resentful and that gets in the way of enjoying our kids.Kids need their dad’s presence, not presents.
3. Giving Gifts Instead of Presence
Kids need their dad’s presence, not presents. Giving gifts instead of presence is the easy way out. If you just give gifts and not presence, you’ll end up with a superficial relationship—if you end up with a relationship at all. When you give your kids your presence, they know you’re emotionally available to them and that’s what they really need in order to grow.
4. Spending Too Much Time on Technology
Whether it’s watching that funny TikTok video or listening to your favorite podcast, the ease of access to distracting technology is a huge driver to disconnect you from your kids. Create healthy habits by turning off that smartphone and locking it away for a few hours to spend time with your kids.
5. Asking Closed-Ended Questions
The other day we got a note from my son’s teacher about an issue in the classroom and my question was, “Did you do everything she told you to do?” Now, it seems like a good question, but it’s closed-ended. I should have asked this instead: “So, what happened in the classroom today?” Had I opened the door with that open-ended question, I wouldn’t have gotten “yes” or “no” as an answer. Instead, I would have gotten a window into his world and that would have connected us.
Sound off: What are some other things that cause a disconnect between parent and child?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “Have I ever done anything that makes you feel like I don’t care about you?”