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Life is really busy these days! This definitely isn’t news – everyone is rushing around trying to get everything done, beating deadlines and holding down the fort. It feels as though there never is quite enough time to get everything done and at the end of the day it isn’t uncommon to get the feeling that a whole 24 hours have passed and you never found time to really connect with the little ones of the household. Here is what we have found to be tried and tested ways to help bond with our little one, even on the most hectic of days.

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Family dinners: We made this commitment when we first got married — that we will always sit down for dinner together as a couple at first and later on with our little ones. It isn’t always easy and schedules don’t always match up effortlessly but it is something we value highly and have made it a family tradition that we have dinners together. This gives us time to unwind as a family, check in and bond. Since our daughter is still a toddler, this means dinnertime is pretty early in our household, but it has been a wonderful way to get together at the end of the day and spend quality time together. On the off days that we don’t manage, we do not beat ourselves up, the world won’t end, but we do get back on track the following day or try to get together for lunch instead.

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Go offline: I will publicly admit that the Internet is my biggest time sap and the one that detracts most of my attention from my daughter, even when she is demanding my attention. Admitting this isn’t one of my finest moments, but it is the truth, and I’m sure it is the truth for many others. The only way that has worked for me is to literally switch off my phone, or disable the WiFi or 3G. Making this conscious decision has made me so much more aware of how much time was being wasted and taken away from time to connect with my daughter. Another way is making dinner time a tech-free time in the household. No electronics at the table AT ALL – it works and really makes you focus on the here and now and on the people you love who are around you.

A child-centered monthly family outing: I’ve realized that, even at nearly 2, my daughter has opinions, and strong ones, too. We’ve committed to having one family outing a month that really is all about her. We usually try to ask her what she’d like to do, give her some choices and go with it, or pick an event/activity that will be all about her, where she doesn’t have strict rules to follow and she can truly shine. These days are wonderful. We really get time to relax as a family and bond with her in ways that we can’t if we’re at the shopping mall and telling her not to touch things every two seconds or at a restaurant were we’re telling her that she must stay in her seat until everyone is done eating.

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Bedtime routine (soak in the moments instead of rushing through): Confession time again: At the end of the day I’m exhausted and bedtime used to be just going through the motions in zombie mode. Completely spent after a busy day I just wanted to get through it; however, a couple of months ago I realized I wasn’t making any real memories or really connecting with my daughter during this time, which in reality was a great moment that I had with her. This realization didn’t come to me on its own. It was after my husband came back downstairs after doing the bed time routine and exclaimed how the memories he was making with her during bedtime were the best ever. This made me realize that the time was passing away and if I were to be more mentally and emotionally present I could use this precious time to truly connect and bond with my little munchkin. Since becoming more mindful and intentional during this, bath time, story time and snuggles, I can really see how it’s a time we both look forward to together and gives us quiet time at the end of another busy day to connect and bond and enjoy time together.

Listen (even to the little things): This is a tough one when I have to listen about her knees, her socks, her wanting cheese, her telling me about playing with her friends and other little trivialities that, in the grand scheme of things, mean nothing; however, they do mean something to my daughter – they actually mean a lot to her – it is her reality and her world and she wants to share it with me. A very wise person (my mother) always told me, “Listen to the little things when they are little and they will tell you the big things when they are bigger.” I remind myself of this every day and make sure to engage with my daughter when she is telling me about her water play, what she did at day care or during a play date or what her Olaf soft toy is doing. I truly believe that listening is key! Whether it is during bedtime, dinnertime, while prepping dinner or in the car listening is the ultimate way to bond with your kids, and this applies whether they are 2, 7 or 20 – if they know you will listen to the mundane they’ll also know that you’ll be there to listen to the hard stuff.

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