They say that the true indicator that you’ve been a good parent to your child is the kind of relationship you have with them when they’re all grown up. If they communicate with you often, if they feel they can open up and talk to you about anything, if they actually want to spend time with you – then you must have done something right.
It’s every parent’s dream to develop a good relationship with their child that lasts a lifetime. But this doesn’t happen naturally; it is a continual process that takes hard work and consistency beginning when they’re young. Here we outline several things that you can do to create a connection with your child.
Turn off your devices! The #1 thing modern parents are guilty of is spending too much time connected to their devices. You may physically be present with your child, but if you are texting someone or scrolling through Facebook you might as well not even be there. You are sending a message to your child that the device is more important and more interesting than they are. Show your child that they are your priority. Give your child your full attention for at least a full ten minutes a day in which you are not distracted by your phone, or the TV, or making dinner. They will feel as if they are the most important thing in the world to you.
“The best inheritance a parent can give his children is a few minutes of his time each day.” – Orlando Aloysius Battista
Listen to them
When children are young, they can talk for hours about their favorite toys, shows, what they ate for lunch, what’s on their socks – pretty much anything and everything. It is exhausting sometimes, and you will be tempted to tell them not now, you’re too busy or too tired, or simply to be quiet. Resist the urge. Listen – really listen – when they want to talk. Show them that you’re interested in what they’re telling you. They will get used to talking to you and telling you everything, which will make it easier to know what’s going on in their lives once they reach their teen years.
Answer their questions
Oh, the incessant questions children ask. What’s this? What’s that? Why? Why? Why? All day long, every day. Sometimes you may not have all the answers, but try to respond to as many as you can without judgment or ridicule. Children are curious little sponges and asking questions is one way they learn. Providing them with honest answers builds trust between the two of you. You want them to know that you are the one with the answers; you want them to feel comfortable coming to you for advice when they get older and really need it.
“If children feel safe, they can take risks, ask questions, make mistakes, learn to trust, share their feelings, and grow.” – Alfie Kohn
Play with them
Get right down on the floor and play with them, at their level. Take them outside and toss a ball around together. Have fun with them! Be silly and laugh together a lot. Let them naturally take direction in playing what they want to play, at their own pace. Engaging with them in this way on their own terms with their own interests will make your child feel special, and fosters a closer, stronger bond between the two of you.
They’re going to make mistakes. They’re going to drop things, they’re going to act out, they’re going to get in the way and they’re going to be annoying. Be patient and careful with what you say, because you can’t take back words said in anger. When you become frustrated, they may not remember what you said but they will remember your reaction and how you made them feel, and they will carry that around with them for a long time. Look at the situation through their eyes. Patience and understanding goes a long way towards making a positive connection with your child.
The world is an uncertain place and so much is out of a child’s control, which is why children crave structure. Establish clear rules and effective limits so they always know what to expect. This will help reduce anxiety, resulting in a happier, more receptive child. Be consistent with both your words and your actions. Your child needs to be able to count on you and trust that you mean what you say.
Say “I love you” every day. Give them lots of hugs and kisses. Continue to love them even when you’re mad at them, even when they are misbehaving, even when they make decisions that you don’t agree with. Your child needs constant reminders that they are loved, and that your love is unconditional. A child that knows that they’re loved feels secure, has more self-confidence, and cooperates more. Your child will feel happier and more connected. And so will you.
“Parents, keep your children closer when they are young, because they will keep you closer when you’re old.” – Zybejta Beta Metani’ Marashi