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The day-to-day grind of school and work, schedules, bills and obligations. As parents, it’s no secret why finding quality time with your kids is a challenge.

The good news is that creating strong bonds doesn’t require excessive amounts of time, expensive toys or even fancy, faraway vacations. Being a great parent and creating memories happens in the little, everyday moments.

"If your vision of being a great parent includes sharing your values with your child, then you can do that every day. And, it does not cost anything," says Gundersen child and family therapist, Jeff Reiland, MS, CPT-S, who is a parent himself.

He recommends these 4 steps for building daily habits of connection:

  1. Be Present. Put down those distractions like smartphones, tablets, laptops and videogames, and give your child your full attention. You don’t have to do this all the time. A few minutes here or there when they are seeking your attention. The best times can come in small moments. Being engaged and present for your child for brief periods throughout the day or evening is less time-consuming than you think! The message that you are sending your child is that they are important. Many parents share that this simple step reduced misbehavior and increases positive experience.
  2. Create Memories. Creating positive memories does not have to cost anything. A five-minute dance party in the kitchen after breakfast, a horsey-back ride up the stairs, making funny shapes with bubbles during bath time, building a blanket house for a tea and cookie party…
  3. Show Affection. Snuggling in during a good story that you are sharing. Pause now and again to ask your child what they think will happen next, or what the characters are thinking and feeling.
  4. Actively Listen. Notice if your child is being curious, excited, worried or proud. Describe the feelings you see them showing you. Help them to learn the words to describe their own experience.

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