Five simple habits for better-connected families

Quick and easy habits to strengthen the relationship with your kids and make language learning more fun

We all have busy lives, our kids, too. A lot of parents, including myself, are eager to teach, to correct, to give more, all of course for the good of our kids. Overwhelm, however, is real.

Think for a minute, if we don’t feel joy when we communicate with our kids, if most of what we do together is stressful and feels like burden, then something needs to change.

I offer you five quick and easy ideas, give them a try and see what feels good for your family. All we want is to create a loving learning atmosphere that inspires and recharges us, that help us grow.

1: Make a wish

Make a habit of making a wish, saying a prayer or an affirmation together with your child first thing in the morning, at bedtime or whenever it is easy and convenient to do so.

For younger kids, it could be a simple question: “What is your wish today? What are you looking forward to?” Offering a few answers to pick up from may help. Also, as a reminder, consider having a printed out copy near their bed or at the dining table, etc. It could be a bilingual version or in the minority language.

Understand your kid’s strengths – you may have kids who naturally come up with great affirmations right here and now or they may need some prompts. Involving them in the preparation process is empowering.

2: Talk about daily routines- visual charts, reminders

If you use charts, flashcards, labels in various languages, that is great. They may work well and/or sometimes may get ignored. Your child’s interests change with age. Sometimes it is a matter of being in the right state of mind.

Try taking the pressure off you and your child. When your child is not interested, accept it and let it be. You can try offering the activity at a later time or changing it a little (e.g. instead of offering a ready routine chart, you may offer a few stickers (e.g. toothbrush, bed, toys, etc) and make a chart together; for older kids, you may ask them to draw the consequent events on paper or whiteboard).

It is very easy for us, parents to get upset when we feel rejected- remind yourself that your child is not deliberately rejecting you or the activity, they may have other primary needs that need attention first. Try to stay calm, to keep an open mind and smile instead. You respecting your child and their choices is more important- that is your weapon and your magic. 

3: A dinner table guiz

Simple questions at the dinner table – make a jar of questions (throw in questions in any language your family speaks- it is a great way to involve everyone and to encourage interpreting practice) or for younger kids start with the same question every night and then later add up and diverse.

Keep it silly- making everyone laugh does wonders. Try to answer the questions yourself, see if you can explore their day (and yours) while you are setting the table together or while waiting for dinner to get ready. Maybe it works better for your family to answer questions when you have a dessert and everyone is already fed, happy and relaxed. Give it a try and see what works best.

4: Sing it out

Throughout the day try singing out what you want to say to your child- it is a great way to attract their attention, make them giggle. Make up simple poems (no need to rhyme everything; word and phrase repetitions are great)- the sillier the better. We have a lot of fun including family members’ names in our songs. Kids love funny surprises- strange combinations like grandma bear Doris or little brother monkey Tom.

If you are unsure how to start or lack inspiration, just use a popular song melody and change a few words to make your own song. It is not uncommon that older kids pick the habit up and then start making up their own songs to entertain their younger siblings. Double win!

5: Good old reading

Read, read, read – the easiest may be as a part of the bedtime routine. What about combining reading and playing? One way to do so is by labeling the books in numerical or alphabet order, play games with numbers or letters to choose your book. Another option may be to make book pouches for each day of the week and select the books in advance.

When it comes to reading, most of you will agree that the library atmosphere is magical. It is a fascinating process, call it a special ritual even- going together to the library, looking at the high shelves stuffed with books, searching for titles, flipping old pages. Just imagine how special and important reading in the library must feel for young kids.

Tips and suggestions:

I pray for (people: mommy, daddy, grandparents, friends, etc).

I pray for (things, feelings: patience, wisdom, staying calm, confidence, faith, etc.)

I am strong and capable.

I am able.

I am beautiful inside and out. 

I can ask for help anytime I need it.

I can talk to (mommy, daddy, teacher, friend, etc), when feeling down, disturbed, worried, anxious, etc)

Tell yourself it is ok for your child to have their own preferences and wishes. I am ok with letting them make their own choices.

What was the funniest thing that happened today? What was something kind you did today? Was anybody sad/excited/worried/delighted today?

What made you sad/happy today?

What beautiful thing did you see today?

What made you feel yucky today?

Raindrops falling from the sky. Snowflakes falling from the sky. Daisies falling from the sky. Stones falling from the sky. Ice-cream cones falling from the sky. 

A simple game to play: hide a few books around the house and let your child find them; read in the order the books have been found or let your child decide the order.

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