It’s a challenge every parent faces at some point, “How do I reach my child? How do I connect with them?” While parenting definitely does not come with an instruction manual, here are a few simple things you can do that are known to foster loving connection with your child(ren).
Dedicate 1:1 time with them for five minutes a day
Connecting with your child requires intentionality. Turn off devices, electronics, and distractions to truly devote your attention to them. Let them direct the play/interaction. Don’t question or try to teach, just enjoy the moment together in each others’ company. You’ll be surprised how much you learn about them and about yourself. If this is uncomfortable initially, don’t worry, all change begets discomfort! But the more you enter their world, the more fascinating it will become and your connection will grow as a result.
Validate their feelings
As a parent, it can be uncomfortable to see our children upset, disappointed, or frustrated. We want to fix it or, sometimes, just move beyond their intense, big feelings! However, it is just as important to kids as it is to adults to feel seen. Reflect those feelings back to your child. Name the feeling. They’ll feel understood and more, importantly, you’re helping to build their emotional vocabulary.
Keep a routine and schedule
Structure creates security in the hearts and minds of children. Knowing what to expect allows for a sense of safety that they can return to. Children aren’t as skilled at organizing themselves as adults, so allowing for predictability that they can fall back on will undoubtedly enhance the relationship. Meaning what you say, following through with rewards (and consequences) allows you to maintain healthy boundaries and expectations.
Get on their level
For younger kids, literally getting on their level, making eye contact, can make them feel seen in this world where big, powerful adults are often towering above them.
For adolescents, realize that they aren’t “little adults.” Try to speak in ways that are developmentally appropriate without talking above their heads. Empathize with and remember the rebellious teen of your past who often felt controlled, yearning for independence.
We are ALL guilty of making mistakes. Children are no different. When things go awry, remember to separate the child from the behavior. There are no bad children, only “bad” behaviors (or “challenging” behaviors, as I refer to them) that need improvement. It is ok to allow grace for moments when children are struggling, tired, hungry, or angry. We all experience tough emotions and respond in ways that sometimes require a do-over. Allowing your kid the space to make mistakes and grow from them, without attributing the designation of them being “bad,” will go a long way with regard to the trust, security, and safety of your bond…knowing that no matter what, you’ll support them (and encourage their growth).
While it is not appropriate to excuse every wrongdoing, it is important that you encourage them to grow from their mistakes, not be defined by them.
Relationships enrich our lives in so many ways, and the parent-child bond is one of the most special and dynamic! Hopefully these tools and tips provide you with new strategies to enhance the connection with your child. Which one of these will you try?