Simple ways to connect with your kids when you’re already tired
Written by Stacy Karen, Contributing Writer
We know that kids need quality and quantity time with their parents in order to connect with them. We know the value of tying heart strings between us.
But what’s a mom to do when she is already exhausted?
Motherhood is not for wimps. Meeting the needs of children can be draining at times.
Add to that pregnancy, a little morning sickness, a newborn, or just general life stuff, and you can get tired pretty quickly.
As someone who is rebuilding after a pretty bad illness (and coming back from the edge of burnout, if I’m being completely honest), I’m very familiar with this. It burdens my heart to think about meeting the needs of my children when I am in a state of exhaustion. It’s not something to neglect.
Thankfully I’ve found a few simple ways to connect with my kids that don’t require too much effort on my part, and I’ve realized that it doesn’t take a circus act or Pinterest-worthy craft to bond with my children.
Today I’m going to share with you what works for me, but I could use some more ideas and would love for you to chime in with your suggestions in the comments.
Here is my list of simple ways to connect with your kids when you’re already tired:
1. Kids just want YOU!
For the most part kids just want their moms to be there. They don’t need fancy outings or elaborate projects; they just want your company. So, sitting on the floor next to them while they play Legos is actually fantastic (even though it might not feel like much).
Last week I sat in the dirt while my three year old made mud pies. She was happy and I didn’t do much more than sit and pretend to drink mud-tea once in a while. The sun was shining and I was able to rest while spending time with my daughter. (Obviously this doesn’t always go so well. Sometimes we have to take our chances.)
2. Sit on their bed at night and let them talk.
I’ve found laying next to my oldest daughter at night to be one of the best moments in our day. I don’t do it every night, but when I do, it’s nothing short of amazing.
Often times I don’t do anything except be still and listen. She talks and talks. I add in every now and then, but mostly, I’m just being there, giving her my undivided attention. (That’s what kids really want.)
I’ve found that these few minutes go a long way in strengthening our relationship.
3. Bake something
OK, so this does require some effort, but it doesn’t involve me thinking up anything to do. I get out the recipe, the ingredients, and then follow along.
Sometimes the thinking up of ideas is the hardest part for me. Truly.
Baking with my kids provides a way to do something together without the need for a lot of planning on my part.
Depending on the age of your kids this could be more difficult.
Here’s me baking with my youngest. I’m pretty tired (you can even see the dark circles/bags under my eyes), but look at her little face. So happy!
4. 15 minutes of whatever
A long time a go I read that children need at least 15 minutes of our undivided attention each day. I don’t know how true that number is, but I think it’s a good place to start. I’ve tried (and need to get back to) telling my kids they have 15 minutes with me to do whatever they want (within reason). And, boy, do they ever look forward to it!
The great thing about this is that I don’t have to think ahead or plan anything (do you see a theme emerging here?). I was afraid they would want to do complicated stuff and it would cause me stress, but usually they just want me to sit with them and listen to a story they have written, talk with them , or play catch. Nothing fancy.
5. Watch a movie together
I’m not a big fan of TV, but it is helpful sometimes. Usually when I let my kids watch something, I make use of the time by running around trying to get a bunch of things checked off my to-do list. However, I’ve noticed that the occasions where I do sit down and actually watch the movie with them (okay, I might nap a little, too), they love it.
Just sitting with them in a non-distracted manner makes them happy. Sharing the experience of the movie bonds us.
There is no getting around a little just pushing through on some days. And even the simplest of things can feel like too much.
Let’s strive to do our best, rest when we can, and give ourselves grace. Oh, and look for some simple ways to connect with our kids that don’t overburden our already tired state.
What would you add to this list? Tell us how you connect with your kids when you are already tired?
Top image credit
I LOVE this post, Stacy. I had adrenal burnout as well and am healing from it. I spent many many days feeling so guilty that I wasn’t running around to a million activities with my kids. And to be honest, some days I still feel that way. On some of my worst days, my youngest would run up and hug me and say, “You are the best Mommy in the whole wide world.”
Ah – I needed that. You are right. They want us. Bless you.
Thank you, Adrienne! I’m glad you are healing. It’s a slow process though, isn’t it?
I love it when kids say we are the best mommies! It never ceases to amaze me when they say it. It’s so often at times when I’ve done very little. Just given them attention. No elaborate plans necessary.
I wanted to say, “Thank you!” for this post before I even read it! Great ideas that I’ve perhaps thought of before, but need to be reminded of. You sort of mentioned this, but I have a tendency when I’m tired to ignore the kids and push mindlessly through the housework…um, hello? Backwards. Forget the housework. Be with the kids! Great post, Stacy. 🙂
It is so easy to get things backwards! Why is that? I don’t know, but we just have to keep working on ourselves, don’t we?
I really needed this! I am in a very hard season of my life right now & have a lot of guilt about what it is doing to my kids. These simple ideas will come in handy, thank-you!
I hope things get easier, Carla. Blessings 🙂
Oohh! This is a great post! Simple and effective ideas; right up this weary mom’s alley 🙂 Thanks for sharing!
Yup, your post is right on. Thanks for sharing. I’m in my first trimester right now of a very easy pregnancy but do get much more tired than usual. We always play together after breakfast and lunch; that part is nonnegotiable, LOL. And of course we do at other times of the day as well but those are “scheduled” times so playing together is a priority. Anyway, I was quite tired just today after lunch so sat out with with my two children and sprayed them with the hose while they did all the running around. Lots of fun for all and easy on me. Thanks for the ideas.
I love this! Thank you for writing it up. Such a good reminder. I often find that the earlier in the day I can do one of these, the better the whole day goes. When I had just one little one, we would start every day with a few minutes of undivided play attention, and it made such a difference. I’ve been thinking about how to get back to something similar, now that I have 6 at different ages and stages. 🙂
I love your idea about doing something early in the day. I’d forgotten about that! It really does help.
I am sending the link to this article to about seven of my mom friends. This is so important and SO needed. Even after our babies are taller than us and have facial hair. Sigh. 🙂
Thank you so much for this Stacey, like Carla, our family is going through some stuff now and I am walking around with Mother’s Guilt worrying about my 10 year old, wondering if she’s picking up on my stress. We have cuddled up on the sofa together almost every evening this week & squeezed in lots of hugs but it doesn’t seem quite enough, I think some one-on-one baking time is in order this weekend. Thanks again :0)
Thank you!! Never heard anything like this before, and I so needed it!
Try watching a home video. Our children love doing this even while folding the clothes at the same time!
Or maybe if they are old enough, usually over 2 yrs., they can pamper Mommy by brushing her hair, back/foot rub, painting finger/toe nails with small paint brush for pretend.
Have the reading child read a book to you or family.
I love that idea about the home video! My kids have enjoyed watching those, but I hadn’t thought to pull them out at strategic times (like when I’m tired!). Thanks!
I’ve found this is true too.
The other night, after a hot, tired day, one of my sons found a watergun and started spraying everyone – disaster, right? But then I realized that he was right. I got a watergun for each kid and sat outside and watched them play.
Laying in bed reading books is another favorite around here when I’m tired or nursing. Or sitting at the table drawing together (or them drawing while I do paperwork). I’m also a big fan of the random craft project. I break out non-messy craft supplies – paper, scissors, pipe cleaners and washable markers. They do what they want with them (usually involing stringing paper together with pipe cleaners somehow) and I watch, helping occasionally if they need it, and listening to whatever story they’re making about their craft thing-y.
This is a GREAT post! I have struggled with what most would call Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and adrenal and thyroid issues since my son was born (although I finally found a doctor that has gotten to the bottom of my issues and I am getting well! YAY!) I have often felt SO guilty for not being more active with him, or not taking him more places. He loves to read and started reading at 4-1/2. One thing we love to do when I’m not feeling well is lie on the couch together and read. He will choose a mountainous stack of books from his room and either I will read to him, or he will read to me, or both. He loves it, and it’s that undivided attention once again that makes the difference. We also play our version of Pictionary with his MagnaDoodle and other hand held games. He just loves playing with Mommy, so even something very simple can make him happy. Thanks for your ideas and encouragement and such a great reminder that it’s OK if we can’t “do it all.”
Great post. My 6yo still just wants to be held in ‘the cozy chair’ for a few minutes each morning. It used to be 10 minutes or more, but now it’s down to sometimes just 2-3 minutes. At first I had to remind my self to just enjoy it, because it would be over soon (like before he’s 10!) but I see such a huge benefit when he has that time in the morning. The whole day goes better! It just comes down to time, and it’s not as much as we might think!
You’re right, it’s not as much time as we might think! I’m certainly feeling that way now my oldest is nearing twelve. I feel like it’s going to over way too soon!
Enjoy the cozy chair while you can 🙂
Once upon a time, I promised my grandkids a picnic in the park but it started to rain. I don’t know about you but rain makes me sleepy. Anyways, the kids were so sad that they couldn’t have their picnic so I told them we would have a picnic on the living room floor but that didn’t go over well. I had a small cooler full of food & no where to go. (light bulb moment) I decided to get our 4 man tent & hurry to set it up in the middle of the park across the street before we got another downpour. The kids were so helpful. They scooted with the wagon in tow full of food, blankets, large pillow, games & a tent. We quickly set up the tent & got everything, including us inside just seconds before the rain came down in buckets. We stayed in the tent all afternoon. Did you ever play twister inside a small tent? Hilarious!! We even got a one hour nap all cuddled together in the midst of our wet afternoon. We still talk about it. Gee maybe I’ll do it again.
My kids love a little walk around the block, or looking stuff up online (answers to questions, pictures of animals, etc). We also take naps together a lot, which is nice.
I’ve got a few to add to the list… when I had horrible morning sickness, my son was three at the time and he loved to “do” my hair. I’d let him brush and then put 50 bobby pins in my hair and layer my neck with necklaces… it was actually a bit relaxing and he had an amazing time 🙂
I also started to do the “fake crack an egg over the head” thing with my oldest. Basically you put your hands together in an egg shape and gently tap them on the top of his/her head, then you slowly let your finger tips slide down their head (like the egg has broke open). It tickles and it’s fun and it feels like a real egg to him. He loves it.
I also shower him with kisses, hugs and I whisper to him… “I have a secret.” Then he leans in close and I tell him how much I love him. He giggles and says, “That’s not a secret!” But it makes us both feel good.
Reading a book doesn’t take much effort either, and you can snuggle in bed! 🙂
Often when I’m exhausted I lay down on the floor in the living room with a book and let my son (20 months) use me as a jungle gym. Sometimes he won’t want me to read but often he’s content because I’m right down there with him. And occasionally I fall asleep while he’s climbing back and forth over me. That’s some major exhaustion!
Ha ha, Annie! It’s amazing what we can sleep through!
I do that when I am sick Annie! If I lay on the sofa, the kids fight over who gets to sit on me, if I lay on the floor, they both crawl over me and I fall asleep. My husband and teenage son can’t understand how I can sleep, but…even sleeping, I can hear them and feel them so I know they are safe–and I can get some rest in. 🙂
something simple, almost effortless, and fun that my 3 year old loves in when i blow bubbles for him. we spent almost 1/2 an hour in the backyard last night as i stood still, blew bubbles, and he ran all over the place chasing them. you can make it even simpler and set up an electric fan that will blow the bubbles for you – just hold the wand up and watch them fly away!
Great idea! Kids always seem to love bubbles!
I forgot to add one of my favorites: have little ones tell you a story!
This one works really well for my youngest. If I am totally wiped out and really need a nap, but it’s not a very good time for one (as in, she has already had her nap), I get on the bed or couch and ask her to pretend she is the mommy and I am the baby and I need a bedtime story (or something like that). I just close my eyes and listen (and sometimes doze). It’s great. And I get to hear some pretty funny stories!
Great post. My 7 year old and I baked whoopie pies on Thursday evening. I am trying to do more things like that with her, especially during the summer months when she can stay up a little later. Whenever we are out at restaurants or my son’s soccer games, we will pass notes to each other. Just yesterday at the doctor’s office, while waiting, we practiced counting money. You’re right, it’s the simple things. It helps me to make the most of our times as well.
Thanks for writing this! Very helpful… You put to words something that I already do but would have never thought of communicating, and gave more ideas! Thank you!
I really love this post. I’d like to ask for your advice for my DD. She is 20 months old and I am finding myself burnt out many days, as well. What are some simple things that I could do with her along the lines of what you have posted? I appreciate you 🙂
This couldn’t have come at a better time!!! Thank you for giving me peace and making me feel normal! 🙂
Each of my boys have “their own song” that I sing for them at night. It is a great bedtime routine that I started while I was pregnant with each of them. Once they were born, I would sing it to them when they got fussy and it has always calmed them down. “You are my Sunshine” and “Jesus loves the little Children” are very special songs.