Your Family Is Your First Mission Field: Staying Connected with Your Children


Parenting and work are God-given roles. Both areas bring honor and glory to the Lord when they are done for His name and with His power. Balancing parenting and work can be difficult for those in ministerial leadership roles. The mission of work vies for one’s attention. After all, there are always people to counsel, sermons to write, and decisions to finalize. If not frequently examined, work hours may consume time away from family. While ministerial work is honorable, it should not come at the expense of spouses and children.

When work becomes all-consuming, an identity, or an idol, it affects the family unit. Specifically, an overly busy workload can negatively impact the parent-child relationship. When children aren’t receiving the love and attention they need from their parents, they will seek it out. How do you know if your children are seeking more connection from you?  Children may not have the emotional or cognitive understanding to verbalize what they are feeling, so they express their feelings through behaviors. Here are six signs your child may not feel connected and tips on being more involved.

1. Asking for time together

Sometimes kids will ask for connection with their parents. This is a healthy way for a child to express her need or desire. However, if parents aren’t paying attention, we may miss it. Why is that? A child’s request for connection is often more subtle than,  “Will you give me more attention?” Instead, requests often look like, “Daddy, will you play with me?” or “Mom, look at my drawing! What do you think?” It’s the parents’ job to acknowledge and respond to their children.

Understandably, a parent cannot always provide attention at the moment a child asks.  For instance, what if your kids are seeking attention while you are in the middle of a task? Here are two responses that acknowledge your child while allowing you to finish a task:

“I really want to see/hear what you are trying to show/tell me. I can’t give you my full attention right now because I am in the middle of ________. Let me finish this first, so then I can give you my full attention.

“I would love to play with you. First let me finish ______. I will be able to play in ___ minutes or at _____ time (give them a specific time)”

2. Engaging in more negative behaviors

If children feel they are not getting enough positive attention, they may spend more time involved in negative behaviors. Negative behaviors are often harder to ignore. Parents will utilize time to correct or discipline a child, which is called negative attention. Negative attention is often reinforcing for a child who isn’t getting recognition for positive behaviors. If you and your child are caught in the negative attention cycle, you may find it hard to stop. Here’s a quick tip: Catch your child “being good.” Pay attention and provide encouragement for the positive behaviors your child displays, and figure out which negative behaviors can be ignored.

3. Increased jealousy and anger towards siblings

Although sibling rivalry is part of sibling relationships, an increase in arguments or jealousy may signal that your child is vying for attention. Showing favoritism towards a particular child over another should not occur in a believer’s home. Favoritism creates bitterness, anger, and jealousy amongst the other children. Just think of Jacob and Esau, and Joseph and his splendid coat of many colors…..let’s not reenact those family dynamics.

4. Regression

A child regressing in previously learned skills and behaviors can signal stress. That stress can relate to a lack of connection within the parent-child dynamic. Regression in oral fixations (i.e. thumb sucking), toilet training habits, social interactions, and emotional expression are a few areas to consider.

5. Clinginess

If your child is acting more clingy towards you or your spouse, he may need a more positive connection with you.

6. Withdrawal 

If a child’s attempts at parent-child connection are not met, she may give up. Your child may stop interacting with you, showing affection towards you, or sharing personal information with you. In these situations, children often look elsewhere for attention and belonging.

How do you create more time with your child?

Maybe you recognize your need to cut back on work and spend more time with your kids, but you aren’t sure how to begin. Start by incorporating frequent but shorter times together (i.e. conversations in the car, reading books at bedtime, etc.). Once those moments are established, then consider adding in moderate length times (i.e. playing a board game) and sporadic lengthier times (i.e. vacation). Here are suggestions for incorporating time with your kids.

  • Schedule playtime each day. During this time, put away all distractions and devote your full attention to your child.
  • Spend 10 minutes a day with each child one-on-one.
  • Engage in family devotionals.
  • Eat meals together.
  • Read books at bedtime.
  • Get together at least once a week for things like game night, a trip to the zoo, bike rides, etc.
  • Use periodic parent-child outings. These are special outings between one child and one parent and last longer than the daily one-on-one time.
  • Family vacation

As you consider your children, remind yourself that your kids first belong to the Lord. Parents are called to steward their time with them, and that time is short. Don’t let that time be consumed by work. Make sure your family stays your first mission field.

Posted on July 29, 2022

Sarah has her masters and doctorate degrees in Clinical Psychology. She specializes in child and adolescent mental health and development. Sarah is also the co-host of the Parenting & Pennies podcast (Jan 2022) on the Christian Parenting podcast network. Sarah serves in leadership at her church for women’s discipleship, and enjoys discipling other women. She also enjoys being a guest writer, speaker, and podcaster for different organizations.
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