Studies have shown the importance of a hug, or positive physical affection. It’s been said that a child needs a minimum of eight daily positive interactions with their parent involving physical touch to feel loved, connected, and emotionally. There are deep neurological things that happen with an embrace or interaction of this type that are necessary for growth and development. Even if your child is getting older and may resist some forms of affection that they enjoyed when they were younger, they still need positive physical interactions just like any adult does.
When you are spending dedicated time together, turn off technology. Technology can be a distraction, an interruption, and make it harder to connect being another input in the room. We like to think we can multitask, but really, one function or another will always suffer when we’re reading texts while talking to our kids. Car radios can be just as much of a distraction as a phone; background television can be just as much of interference as your laptop being opened to your email. Consider all forms of technology when you think about the environments you choose to interact within.
Love is the chain whereby to bind a child to its parents.
Tips on Helping Your Child Build Relationship
As kids get older there will probably be fewer intersections throughout the day where you talk about things in general. Perhaps after school, they have sports or dance practices, or on the weekends they have activities, events, and games. Make a concerted effort to connect before big transitions or events and decisions that you are aware of that will make a big impact on your child’s or family’s future. This will keep the communication open and allow for your child to respond to new information.
One-on-one time is very important; have you ever noticed that your child is different in a group than with you alone? Some families practice a special date night or date day with a particular parent and child to foster this one-on-one time, but it could also be doing a project around the house or playing a game together. Maybe you can garden together, teach your child a skill you have, take on a new project neither of you have ever done (watch a YouTube video if you get stuck), or even go walking around a lake or on a trail.
When you do strike up a conversation, listen to understand first and foremost; you may feel the urge to immediately interject advice, but repeating back what your child said, and asking questions may lead to a deeper understanding of the entire situation. Reading books on the psychology of good listening may be especially useful in learning how to talk to an older child or teenager. Advice may be a necessary component but listening first makes your child more likely to receive what you do have to say, as they will feel heard, validated, and like you have invested the effort in truly trying to understand.
Developing your relationship with your child
Along the same lines, try to encourage emotions instead of shutting them out. You may not always agree with how they are thinking about a situation, but your child’s emotions are real and valid, and your acknowledgement of this can go a long way in supporting them and encouraging them. Everyone has a right to their own emotions, and there are healthy ways to express those emotions. Teach your child how to handle big emotions by allowing them to feel those things without having to fake, hide, or guard themselves against acknowledging them.
Respect your child’s boundaries when it is appropriate. It can be in small things like knocking on the door instead of coming on in, or in big things like an older child wanting an email address to themselves or a phone but find a way to acknowledge that you respect and trust your child, assuming they are not using boundaries to try to hide things that are against your family boundaries. Boundaries might also be, I don’t want to talk about x around so and so. Or, I don’t like tickles anymore, I’m too big.
One thing that can build trust and confidence in the long run is to catch your child doing something right and praise them for it. It may seem awkward or forced at first, but this can be a healthy way of acknowledging that you aren’t only going to try to talk to your child when there’s something wrong or serious going on. Expressing your pride in your child and your pleasure in watching them be responsible, kind, thoughtful, or patient is important to them in their growth as a person.
- Being an Effective Parent — Helping Your Child Through Early Adolescence
- Parenting Children and Youth Who Have Experienced Abuse or Neglect
- Communicating Effectively With Children