Every day you show your child how you feel about them. This is seen and heard, both verbally and non-verbally. As parents, we have the opportunity to show our children support and become their biggest cheerleaders. Below is a list of five interactions that I’ve practiced, and I’ve seen drastic changes in my kids as these things have brought us closer together.
1. Be present when you see them again.
With the crazy schedules we all face, kids come and go throughout the week. When your child wakes up in the morning or comes home from school or a friend’s house, pause the tv. Put your phone down. Put aside distractions and make eye contact and greet them with a smile. The child seeing you do this will show them that you are present with them and their presence matters the most.
2. Tell them you love them and missed them.
When your child walks in the door, or hops in your car, let them know you missed them and share your excitement to be with them again. This lets them know that you thought about them while they were gone and you are ready to hear anything that they want to share. It’s nice to be missed as it helps us feel valued and thought of. Also, if they feel your love, they will feel that you are providing them a safe environment to talk about their day.
3. Ask about their day.
It is very important to make eye contact when doing this. A lot of the times you will just get a “good,” “fine,” or “not good.” You may need to ask more open-ended questions and be specific: “What did you do during recess? What was your favorite part of the day? What friends did you play/hang out with today? Did you do anything special that you don’t usually do?” Your response makes all the difference! Show compassion, love and excitement for their lives. Thank them for sharing their day with you.
4. Hug your child.
There are so many benefits behind a hug. There’s this really cool brain chemical called oxytocin that aids in physical bonding. Oxytocin will help bond you and your child through hugs. Hugging also makes your child feel safe, lowers their stress levels and connects you with them. I have noticed a huge behavior difference when I hug my kids before and after school. Remember, we are all hardwired to connect. Hugs are a great way to connect and bond.
5. Spend 1-on-1 time with each child.
This one might be the hardest, especially if they’re born close together. Each child is an individual that needs individual attention. Do daddy and mommy daughter/son dates. Find ways your child can help you cook chocolate chip cookies. Explore how you can take your schedule and incorporate them into it. “Hey I need to go buy some new shoes and could really use your expert opinion.” At my family’s current life stage, I give this individual attention when I get home from work. My wife does it during bedtime.
Having a relationship with your child happens every day, every hour. Show them they are important enough to have your time, attention, and your support! These things will show them that you love them, and that they are important to you. I hope these five ideas can help further aid you to enhance your connection with your child.
-Tim Fidler, LCSW