Sharing a hobby with your kids
When was the last time you played a game with your kid? What about a long conversation with your child? Or can you remember a time where you bonded around some common interest? Can you tell what your kids are like around their friends?
It is my observation that if you are unsure with any of the questions above. You may not spend enough time with your children. This could be due to a busy schedule or a true lack of connection with your kids. I know I have gone through many cycles of know my kids to be dumbfounded by something they say or do, purely because I was unaware of their general interests or personality. It is out of these moments that I have been working towards a personal goal with each one of my children.
My goal stated simply is to have 1 activity, hobby, franchise, game, etc. with each of my kids. My original intent with my goal was to spend 1-2 hours a week with each of my children individually. What I have seen it grow into has been amazing both for me as a parent but also for my kids’ temperament. I have also seen a greater cohesion within my family as a whole that was never expected.
Problem and Solution
When I have seen bad parent/child relations I always tend to note 1 or 2 lacking pieces. The first piece is fairly common and easy to see for most people. In general the first impacting issue boils down to an imbalance of parental respect. This could be too little respect or the opposite of too much respect. The other notable issue is a lack of shared interests between parents and their children. Many factors can lead to this lack of interest. It could be stress, age, personality and so much more.
Solving for these 2 problems can potentially help a child's development and repair parental relationships. The simplest way I have found to resolve both respect and a lack of interest is finding a common hobby with your child. This could be as simple as taking a daily walk or having a designated lunch. It could also be as intricate as building something or running a family business. Regardless, the objective is the same which is simply finding something you enjoy doing with your kids. The key here is doing it individually and committing to actively participating in the activity.
Now it may sound like this stuff is easy to do. If you have ever spent time with children you know how difficult it can be to find an activity both parties genuinely enjoy. This was no different with my kids, especially being a stepparent where my general disposition is not naturally present.
There is a method that I used to understand initial interests while slowly and deliberately propose potential activities.
- Ask and Observe - This should be basic but I see it so often overlooked and underused. If you simply ask and have an open dialogue it can help you understand interest and potential common ground for an activity. The second component of observation is the portion I often see overlooked or flat out ignored. Gauging interest from body language, verbiage used, or general tone are great ways to quickly infer honest interest.
- List the Interests - This doesn’t have to be as formal as actually writing something down but instead keeping a few things that interest both parties in mind when find an activity. Something like remembering your kid enjoys puzzles and you enjoy television is more than enough. Writing the actual interests down is fine as well you just have to remember likes change over time. As yourself do I still like everything I enjoyed 2-3 years ago?
- Blending Ideas into Activities - Once you have a few interests listed you can begin the actual process of finding an activity. To give an example we will say your kid enjoys puzzles and you enjoy television. Out of this you could find a few activities that incorporate both interests without ignoring either interest. In this case I would propose, watching a game show, playing quiz/puzzle games, building lego/models. This is purely brainstorming with a little bit of conversation and agreement.
- Try Things Twice - Once you have a few options that seem to peek both parties interest you can actually try to activity. The biggest thing here is not forcing or faking enjoyment. If it is something you both find interesting you will have plenty of fun naturally. That being said it may be something that may require you try it again to either affirm genuine enjoyment or true dislike. Either party should not feel pressured into the activity.
- Commit and Invest - After trying a few things you should have hopefully hit one or two activities that each of you enjoy. With a solid activity in place you must then commit to actually doing the activity. This can be a formal time commitment like every wednesday at 4 or something more loose like when either party feels like it. While it may not be necessary investing in your activity can help align the respect for both parties. It is a great way to show you care towards a common interest. It can also set natural rewards for each party to work towards and enjoy together.
Creating Shared Experiences
I can honestly say I went through these steps in finding a common activity with each of my kids. I can also say the difficulty in finding a common interest varied for each of my kids. It also is not something set in stone, and has already shifted and expanded for me and my children.
With my oldest Vanessa we started doing Magic The Gathering (MTG) which was brought about with her interest in puzzles and reading. Along with my interest in games and strategy. I can say this took quite a few times before becoming enjoyable for me and her. Her curiosity and my commitment is what keeps us coming back to MTG. While we continue to play Magic we have also expanded into another game universe called Dice Masters. Which is a bit more complicated but has allowed us to have more options when we are wanting to play a game with each other.
My son Hayden has been a simpler at finding an activity considering we both like playing video games. This has resulted in both of us playing a ton of video games together. While this will most likely be our strongest core interest we are still looking to find another hobby to do together. This is challenging for me and him because we started off with such a strong initial interest. This was a double edged sword, on one side it was easy to start, on the other it is hard to find something different that creates the same level of enjoyment.
As for my daughter Kaitlyn, she was the last one I developed a common interest with. She was super girly and is very much opposite in her preferences from myself. However, out of pure curiosity I asked if she had any interest in Pokemon. She said she thought they were cute but didn't know much past that. On a whim I bought a pack of Pokemon cards ($4) and gave them to her. When she opened them she was hooked, she liked the pictures and wanted to know more about what the words meant on the cards. From here we got a deck or two and learned how to play the card game together. This has since expanded into Pokemon Go where we can go out and scooter or walk around and catch Pokemon on our phones.
I hope this helps someone someday build a better future for themselves and their kids. It definitely is not a one way road but finding a common interest can help create a safe and comfortable space to facilitate easier communication. I know from my own experiences with doing activities with my kids it has allowed for in depth conversation, education, and general smack talking. Which has led to greater respect on both ends and a common understanding of what is happening in each others lives.
With all of that said I challenge you to find 1 thing you can do with your kids individually. Start small and expand, try something new, and have fun!