According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the relationship between a parent and child will be one of the most important in that child’s life. As a parent, you may have felt an instant bond with your child from the second they were born.
But, you can never grow too close to your children as they get older. Your relationship will shift and evolve so you can understand what they need, and they can understand that they can turn to you for anything. Growing closer to your children allows them to feel protected and safe in a world that can sometimes feel less than stable.
So, how does growing closer strengthen your relationship and keep your children feeling secure? What can you do to foster that growth?
How to Encourage Positive Behavior
To say we’re living in uncertain times would be an understatement. With so much going on in the world right now, from the Coronavirus pandemic to the BLM movement, it’s understandable for children to have questions, and even for them to be nervous or scared. Unfortunately, depending on your child’s age, they might try to get information from social media, friends, or news outlets you’re unaware of if they spend a lot of time on their phones or tablets.
As a parent, part of growing closer with your child means addressing their concerns, even if they aren’t verbal about them. Children need support and encouragement at home in order to develop positive behaviors. For example, children under the age of 12 might present challenging behaviors such as:
- Consistent or prolonged crying
- Running away
- Throwing “tantrums”
- Using inappropriate language
The more you understand about your child’s challenges and concerns, the more you can work with them on addressing these behaviors and turning them into something positive. You can encourage positive behavior by offering them praise, modifying their routines when appropriate, and establishing a clear set of rules. When your child understands what those expectations are, you can talk to other caretakers, teachers, daycare workers, or babysitters about what they should expect when watching your child, too. The encouragement of positive behavior needs to be consistent, no matter who is caring for your child.
Encourage Open Communication
Observation is an important part of helping your child feel safe. But, if they’re of an appropriate age, communicating with them verbally is one of the best ways to strengthen your bond, learn more about them, and find new, creative ways to get closer to them.
Encouraging open communication starts with knowing how to effectively talk to your child at any age. For example, you might want to zero in on specific details with a preschooler. Rather than asking them what they did at school, ask them who they played with at recess or what they ate for lunch.
When you’re talking with older children, use whatever window of opportunity you can find to spark a conversation. As your child gets older, they may not want to talk to you as much, so it’s important to pick up on nonverbal communication and read their body language. But, if you start to encourage open communication and your child knows they can trust you and feel safe in talking to you at a young age, it’s a habit that is more likely to continue as they get older.
What Can You Do to Connect With Your Child?
Growing closer to your child doesn’t have to feel like a chore. The first step might simply be getting them off of the sofa to spend some time being active with you. Anything from taking a bike ride to walking the dog can provide a great opening to have fun, reconnect, and have a conversation.
You can also find hobbies that both you and your children enjoy. When you share a common interest, it can be easier to open up and encourage your child to do the same. A hobby as simple as metal detecting can help you and your child to participate in a fun activity together with enough downtime that you’ll have plenty of opportunities for honest conversation.
Understand that all children are different. Some are more open than others. Some are more vulnerable than others. Let the growth between you and your children come naturally and without force. When you do, your child will realize that you are the person they can turn to when they’re feeling unsafe or insecure.
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