Simple changes at home

10 Ways to Relax and Bond With Your Child

By Lexi Walters Wright

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Sometimes it’s hard to focus on the joys of parenting—especially for parents of children with learning and attention issues. But finding time to have fun together can really pay off. Try these stress-relief ideas for relaxing and bonding with your child.

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Tween boy sitting in school hallway smiling reading text message
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Connect daily.

Carve out time every day to acknowledge your child’s non-academic skills, accomplishments or qualities. Choose the method of communication your child prefers:

  • Send a text, telling her how much fun you have listening to her practice playing her instrument.
  • Talk on the couch about an upcoming school dance.
  • Keep an ongoing email exchange going about the highs and lows of school.
  • Write small affirmations on sticky notes and place them in her lunch pack or sports bag.

Grandmother reading to her child who is curled up in her lap on the sofa
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Read together.

It can be fun to share an unfolding story with your child. Let your child choose a print, digital or audiobook for the two of you to read together or that you can read to her. The content and length of the book aren’t as important as the shared time. Discuss your favorite characters and scenes, and how you each might have changed elements of the story.

Mother and son jogging together
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Break a sweat.

Regular exercise not only reduces stress, but can also improve mood and make hearts healthier. Set a regular time to walk, hike, swim, ride bikes or play sports. Or take a dance or exercise class together. Let your child choose the activity and keep it fun. Try to use this bonding time to help your child develop basic skills in team sports. This may help reduce anxiety in gym class.

Mother, daughter and grandmother baking in the kitchen
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Cook up a good time.

Making nutritious food helps fuel our brains and bodies. Getting kids involved in preparation might even make them excited to sit down to dinner!

Depending on your child’s abilities, have her help select recipes, make lists, shop, prepare or serve a meal of her choosing. A younger child may start with one recipe that becomes her “specialty.” Look for ways to increase your child’s role over time. And be sure to compliment the chef!

Young boy and father at the zoo
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Plan dates.

Take turns planning monthly dates for just the two of you. Consider events like theater performances, lectures, movies, concerts and sporting events. Or try local attractions like farms, museums and zoos. Arranging and experiencing each other’s plans can feel great for both of you, especially if you focus on what the other might really enjoy. You may need to assist your child in looking for ideas, but the dates will still be special.

Parents and teenagers volunteering to clean a city street
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Do good.

Volunteering isn’t just great for the community—it’s also good for the volunteer. Research shows it can reduce stress and risky behaviors such as substance abuse and smoking.

You and your child can choose an organization and activity that speaks to both of your skills and interests. (Maybe stuffing envelopes for local advocacy groups suits you better than working in a soup kitchen.) Browse websites like for ideas.

Father and son taking a drive in the truck together
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Hit the road.

Driving with your child can provide ample opportunity to relax, talk, laugh, sing and just be together. You might find the car an easier space than others for your kid to open up.

Choose an exciting destination, but one close enough that you won’t feel worn out by the time you arrive. Plan for regular stops and pack appropriate distractions. Before hitting the road, get tips on how to help your child pack for a trip.

Mother and son practicing meditation in the park
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Learn to meditate.

Meditation can be powerful. Research shows it can decrease stress, anxiety, pain and depression. It can also improve your mood and boost self-esteem. Choose a method that works best for your child:

  • Take an in-person, parent-child class.
  • Read or listen to an audio, digital or physical book.
  • Watch an instructional DVD.

Then set a regular time daily to meditate, either in the same or different rooms. This way, you won’t have to put up the “Do not disturb” signs!

Father playing piano for his son
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Set a serene soundtrack.

Are you and your child together during a particularly stressful time of day? It might be the drive home from appointments or the hour between afterschool activities and dinner. If so, turn on a soothing station. Listening to classical or other calming music can reduce negative emotions.

Parents and son dancing and skipping rope in the kitchen
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Bust some moves.

When you sense you both need it, crank up some tunes and just dance. Your child may want to change the music (let her!) or make fun of your moves (again, let her!). Hopefully she’ll join your dance party. Grooving and shaking can release tension in your bodies and cause serious laugh attacks—and who couldn’t use that?

Start the slideshow again

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About the Author

Portrait of Lexi Walters Wright

Lexi Walters Wright

A veteran writer and editor for parenting magazines and websites, Lexi Walters Wright has a master’s degree in library and information science and is proud to serve families at

More by this author

Reviewed by Donna Volpitta, Ed.D. Dec 10, 2013 Dec 10, 2013

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