1. Find 10 to 15 minutes each day to give your kid undivided attention without any distractions. Put your phone away. If it buzzes, say aloud, “It can wait.”
2. Watch the words you choose when you’re about to get some me-time. “I’m really looking forward to a long soak in the tub” is a lot better than, “Honey, I’m so glad you’re home! I need a break from the kids!”
3. When you can’t be with your kid, tell her what you’re doing and why it’s important.
4. Ask your kid questions that convey genuine interest in who he is. For example, “What kind of music do you like the best?”; “Who are you spending the most time with these days?” or “What do you usually do during recess?” Do this a lot.
5. Hug and kiss them. Give your kids as much physical affection as they will tolerate, for as long as they’ll tolerate it.
6. Make eye contact with your kids when you’re talking to them. Square your body up to theirs, get down on their level and look into their eyes.
7. Create a “reconnection point” at the end of the day. When she walks in from school, don’t ask, “Do you have homework?” or “Did you know the principal called me?”—even if you really want to know the answers. Instead, ask yourself, What can I say to my kid right now that will make her happy to see me? She’ll want to co-operate with you more if she feels connected to you.
8. Don’t focus on results. When her piano recital is over, say, “I loved watching you play,” rather than “You did a great job.” Concentrate on how you felt watching her perform, not on how well she did.
9. Ignore your meal plan once in a while, and let the kids pick what’s for dinner. Or, get them in on the menu creation and shopping.
10. Follow their lead. Let your kids pick an activity they want to do with you, even if it’s not your idea of fun. Call it Mom Morning or Dad Day.
11. Create an “attachment bridge”—something that lets her know you’re thinking about her when you aren’t together. It could be a note or favourite treat in her lunch box or, for older kids, a cute text message during the day. (“Your favourite song just came on the radio!”)
12. Drop everything when she gets home. No matter what you’re in the middle of, take a second to greet her with a big smile and a tight hug.
A version of this article appeared in our January 2016 issue with the headline “12 little ways to make your kid’s day,” p. 41.