8 Ways to Connect with Your Child
Every parent I’ve spoken to has questioned their parenting at some point. The role of a parent is hugely demanding. Not only does it evolve every day but you're presented with new challenges with every life and developmental stage.
All parents worry from time to time about their relationship with their child – questioning if they’re close enough, if they spend enough quality time together or if they really know their child. Many parents suffer from Imposter Syndrome and the guilt of a busy parent is not to be underestimated either.
By reading this article, you’re already showing how much your role as a parent means to you. That's a great start.
Let me share 8 tips with you to help you connect with your child:
Talk (and listen) to them every day. Ask about their day and ask further questions to show your interest and intrigue. Your child wants you to care about their daily life, but be sure to respect their need for space if they had a bad day and don’t want to talk about it. Tell them a little about your day, too, but ensure you listen more than you talk. Maintain eye contact when talking with your child, nod and make sure your child knows you’re listening. It’ll take time to build a connection with your child, especially with teenagers or older children who may be feeling defensive or rebellious.
Take an interest in their lives. Some children aren’t big talkers, or they may have become too guarded to talk to you easily. In this case, ask if you can get involved with something they enjoy doing. If they like gaming, ask if there’s a second controller and you can join in or, if they’re creative, ask if you could help with an art project or suggest a trip to a gallery. Try not to seem judgemental about their hobbies – if they aren’t hurting anyone and it’s bringing them joy, it’s probably good for you to be supportive.
Channel your inner child. One of the best ways to connect with your child is to shift your mindset to more closely resemble theirs. Do you remember what it was like to be just 5 years old? What did it feel like? How amazing was it to play? What did you love doing with your parents? It was so easy to live in the moment, oblivious to the world’s problems. Now, take that feeling and bring it to life. The chores can wait, dinner can be delayed. Your child needs to be able to connect with you on their level – these playtimes will stay in their mind as fond memories in the future.
Take time away from technology. As much as technology has been a wonderful addition to our lives in many ways, it’s been pretty harmful to our ability to connect in real-life to others. It’s not uncommon for a child I’m working with to say how sad they feel when Mum and Dad are on their phones at the dinner table, or the television is on in the background. Your child may grumble at having to put their phone aside before dinner, but underneath they really value you making the effort to spend quality time with them. Every child needs to feel special, and putting your phone aside is a great way to show your child that they’re your top priority.
Slow down. Children conceptualise time differently to adults. The younger you are, the slower time feels yet the more you’re learning and taking in every day. As much as you want them to hurry up, you’re going to get so much more out of each interaction if you slow down. The butterfly by the path may seem insignificant to you as you hurry your toddler to class but, to them, it may be the most fascinating thing in their day. There’s a huge opportunity to connect with your child if you allow more time for each task than you think is needed.
Schedule a ‘YES’ day. How many times per day do you say “no” to your child? It’s often a lot – children ask for a lot and it’s often not reasonable or wise to say yes. The problem is, saying “no” is pretty disheartening to both you and your child. We don’t like being the bad guy, and no one likes being told “no” repeatedly. A great, fun way around this is to schedule in a ‘Yes’ day! Book it in advance so your child can really look forward to it. On this day, let your child have ice-cream for breakfast, let them wear their dinosaur outfit to the park or choose their favourite café for lunch. This really will create wonderful memories and help strengthen your connection.
Welcome their friends. If you do this, they’ll be home more and likely to share stories, challenges and achievements with you as they feel you’ll better understand the context. As an added bonus, when your child is forced to see you through their friends’ eyes, they may realise that you’re not so bad after all!
Respect your child for being their own person. As your child grows up and transitions through the developmental stages, they’ll start needing their own space and to be treated in a more adult-way. Your attempts to connect may not work straight away, and that’s okay. Respect that your child may need time to adjust to your new approach, or may feel guarded as things haven’t worked out so well before. Remember to knock before entering their room, for example, as this shows you respect their need for privacy and space. Ask if they’d like to join you in your work or hobbies, and tell them how much you enjoyed spending time together. It can be incredibly hard to see your children as adults, but treating them in a more mature way fosters greater respect for one another.
If you’ve been wanting to connect with your child on a deeper level, follow these tips and start now. Time passes incredibly quickly so make the most of their childhood and start making memories!
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