Kids spell L-O-V-E funny. They spell it T-I-M-E.

Yet, if you’re a parent, you don’t have to be Captain Obvious to realize that it can be quite a challenge to invest enough time to communicate love to your kids.  So what can we do to find more T-I-M-E to L-O-V-E our kids?

Here are a few ideas that even busy parents can implement (and by “busy,” I mean all of us):

Take walks.  Practically every week, Kathy and I can be seen taking walks with our kids. You absolutely read that right…EVERY WEEK. And please hear this loud and clear—nothing creates the T-I-M-E needed to connect with our kids without distractions like taking walks together.

A few secrets that we’ve learned over the years might be helpful here:

  • First off, we don’t have a magic schedule that we follow. Some weeks we walk 1 time; other weeks it’s 2-3 times. The key is to create time whenever possible. (By the way, we’ve found that right before dinner and right after dinner are great times.)
  • Here’s an insider’s secret…don’t ask your kids if they want to take a walk with you, kindly inform them that they are taking a walk with you. Successful parenting isn’t so much a democracy as it is a benevolent dictatorship.
  • Put up with the moans and groans you’ll hear at first because, believe it or not, they will pass. Our kids sometimes gripe, but most often they give us those “do I really have to do this” stares when we announce we’re taking a walk. Yet once we start walking, talking, and laughing, within a matter of minutes everyone’s spirits lift and for the next 20-30 minutes we have a great time. (Another insider’s secret…exercise has a tendency to lift spirits.)
  • If you have young kids, NOW is the perfect time to start this tradition. The reason is by the time they are teenagers, you’ll have years of tradition on your side. What this means is every time your teens mumble and complain about walking, you can say with a smile on your face: “Come on, now. You know this is just part of what our family does to stay close to one another.”
  • And in case you’re wondering, our three kids are ages 15, 13, and 13…so if you have teenagers, you CAN do this.

Eat dinner together. I know you’ve read this before, but do you do it? Kathy and I both work, and at the end of the day, we are both tired. Yet we don’t see sitting down as a family and eating together as one more thing on our To-Do List. Instead, we look forward to it because it’s so rejuvenating to be together and catch up!

We’ve also started something else recently. Instead of Kathy preparing the meal by herself, I’ll emerge from my office and we’ll turn on some music and prepare a meal together. Our kids even help out some nights. Again, it creates a great environment that gets us talking, sharing, and laughing.

Answer questions.  At every age, kids are inquisitive. What’s more, they are interested in your thoughts and opinions at every age as well. So the next time your child asks you a question, STOP whatever you’re doing and listen. Her question is an indication that she values your insight, and only a less-than-intelligent parent would turn his back on such a great opportunity to pour into his child’s life (and I know you’re not less-than-intelligent).

Give space, then process together.  Finally, when you have an argument with your child, be sure to give him some space afterwards to process what just happened. What’s more, you probably need space yourself to process everything (this happened to me just yesterday, and I know I needed space). After some time, revisit the situation to make sure each of you has taken responsibility for your actions, asked forgiveness if necessary, and has learned and grown for the experience. This will turn a potentially negative situation into a positive growth moment from each of you.

Yes, kids spell L-O-V-E funny. But personally, I think it’s a good thing. Why? Because it gives me another reason to spend T-I-M-E with some of my favorite people!