Relationships, no matter who you are forming bonds with, require intentionality and hard work to become strong, happy and successful. This is not only the case with just grown-up relationships, but also with children.
Parents and young children equally crave close moments with each other, bonding; if those connections are not nurtured, they will fade away in time, leaving you in heartbreak.
Parenting is one of the toughest jobs in the world. Somewhere between tearing your hair out and giving up on the entire thing, moms and dads try their best to provide for their children. But we’re only human.
Researchers say that parents spend the majority of their time guiding children, which includes correcting, scolding, reminding, yelling, criticizing and nagging. Although necessary, these are all negative interactions. It’s important to balance those interactions with an equal amount of positive interactions to keep a parent-child relationship healthy.
Creating a connection with your child is one of the things you can do as a parent. Without a strong bond, your child may grow up to be estranged—you may both find it difficult to make emotional connections.
When a child feels a strong connection with their parents, they tend to be easier going and more likely to cooperate. Don’t get me wrong: kids will be kids—their way of processing emotions is still developing as their prefrontal cortex develops—but they will be more willing to trust their parents and understand that their parents will have their best interests at heart.
Here are 10 daily habits you can follow to build a strong connection with your child. After all, our children are our greatest blessings.
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#10 Aim for more hugs
Virginia Satir, a family therapist, is known for having said, “We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.”
A hug says a lot. It’s a powerful way to express and reassure feelings of love and security to your children. Cuddling and snuggling also work wonders. Initiate hugs in the morning, when you say goodbye and you’re reunited. Eye contact and smiles in between hugs also send a powerful message. This might be difficult for older kids and you may have to ease them into this.
#9 Laughter and play
Did you know that laughter and playing with your child stimulates endorphins and oxytocin in both of you? It releases anxiety and makes children feel more connected. What do you think will be more effective? Shouting at them to come down for breakfast or saying “Little Superman needs super breakfast for his super day!”
#8 Stay away from technology when interacting
How do you feel when you’re talking to someone and they are distracted, busy with their phone? Is it annoying, right? Same can be said for parents or kids. Stay away from distractions while interacting with your kids and teach your kids to do the same. It’s an opportunity to bond─any kind of technology, even music, can cause a disruption in your connection.
#7 Connect before transitions
Most kids have a difficult time transitioning from one thing to another. Connect with your kid by saying their name and making eye contact. Help make them comfortable by making them giggle, if you can. You’ll see that your child will find the inner resources to make the transition.
#6 Make time for one-on-one
It’s essential for you to make time for your child, no matter the time of the day. If you have multiple children, you might need some scheduling to make time separately, every day. You can alternate your time doing what your child wants to do with something you want to do together. Go for ice-cream or play catch—but make time.
#5 Welcome emotions with open arms
Your child needs to express his emotions. On the contrary, bottling up emotions will take a negative toll on your child’s psyche. Take an opportunity to help your child process and heal from upsets—be compassionate. Don’t ever push your children away because of the anger. If you listen, encourage them to feel their emotions and express them, you’ll help them understand what’s behind all the tears and fears. Be the person they trust enough to cry with.
#4 Listen and empathize
Every connection starts when someone starts listening to the other. Try to understand the problem from your child’s point of view and you will be able to see another perspective—see the reasoning behind their actions. Your son or daughter is not your enemy, they need your listening ear—it’s your parental instinct.
#3 Stop rushing moments and savor it
Most all parents say that their children grew up way too quickly and they would’ve preferred if they stayed children a little longer. That being said, it doesn’t mean you need to rush a connection. It’s not a race, it’s a marathon. Stretch out each moment of connection to its fullest. Let your child smell the strawberries before you put them in a smoothie. When you’re helping them wash their hands, put yours in the running water alongside theirs and share the cool rush of the water. Smell their hair. Enjoy the little conversations. Listen to their laughter. Slowly but surely, these moments bring together a happy parent-child relationship.
#2 Bedtime chats
Children go through their day gathering experiences from their surroundings. They want to share them with you, so take the time to learn what certain things mean and ask questions on things they don’t understand. A chat before bedtime is the perfect time and place where you can share this connection. Listen to your child, acknowledge their feelings, and reassure them that everything will be okay—it will only deepen your relationship.
#1 Show up!
Your presence in your child’s life is vital to his growth. Don’t be a parent who doesn’t show up to recitals, soccer games, and picnics. Your child has about 900 weeks before they leave home. Trust me, those weeks will be gone faster than you can imagine. Make a habit by balancing your work, life and time for your child.