Keep the Bond with Your Child Strong.

Love your child?  Of course you do.  Did you ever think it would be hard to have a good relationship with this child you love so much?  Probably not, but for many parents it is.

Good relationships don’t just happen, not with friends, not with spouses, and not with our children, not even with our young children. They take ongoing work and quite a bit of mindfulness.

Let’s start with this.  Your child needs to receive constant messages from you that say, “I’m here for you. I care about you, your needs, and your feelings. I’m respectful of you and I’m responsive to you.”  How are these messages conveyed?  

1.  Show lots of affection. Everyday, there should be frequent hugs, cuddles, kisses, and smiles, and when you interact, there should be plenty of eye contact.This tells your children that you’re aware of them, that you’re glad to have them around, and that you love them – in short, glad that they exist.

2.  Share activities with them.  Kids like doing things with their parents, not all the time, but often – things such as reading together, playing together, taking walks together, eating dinner together as a family, and even doing chores together.  

3.  Laugh and have fun together. Laughing feels good and it lets off steam, and having fun together is a terrific bond between people.  People who have fun together like each other. Tell jokes, make faces, horse around, and act silly. It’s good, healthy fun and your children will love it.

4.  Devote undivided time and attention to each child everyday.  Most parents have very busy schedules and many responsibilities.  But one of your most important responsibilities concerns your children.  So for 10 or 15 minutes a day, your child should have your undivided attention with no distractions, no multitasking, no telephones, TVs, or computers.  This dedicated time should be quiet and calm, a few moments which you and your child share only with each other, talking, cuddling, reading, relaxing – something nice.

5.  Talk together about lots of things, including your child’s problems.  Your children need to know that they can come to you to share not just their good news but also their problems, concerns, and questions. You’re there to help them straighten things out, actively involved in what your child is saying.

6.  Give you child the same respect that you want. Don’t nag, criticize, or be judgmental.  It hurts, and as you know, your child has feelings which do get bruised.  Also, it rarely results in your child’s improved behavior even though, in the short term, you might feel better letting out your frustration. Also, don’t roll your eyes at what your child is saying or doing, or check your watch in impatience. These are all verbal and non-verbal types of invalidation.

This means empathizing and trying to see the situation and the feelings it evokes from your child’s point of view, whether you agree or disagree. You validate your child’s feelings, thoughts, and behavior by trying to understand them, and this is one of the most important ways to give your child support.

Your goal is to keep the bond that you have with your child strong, and to educate, not to embarrass, punish, or humiliate. The strength of your bond depends on the trust that exists between you and the knowledge your child has that he or she can always turn to you for help and support.

(P.S.:  When you need to correct your child, there are constructive ways to do so, but that’s a whole other topic.)