Recently our Clinical Director & Founder Maaliea Wilbur was published in M Magazine! We are excited to present her wonderfully written article on the importance of cultivating and preserving a well-rounded bond with your child. You can also click here to read Maaliea’s article on M Magazine’s website. Enjoy!
Staying Connected: 15 Useful Tips for Maintaining a Healthy & Strong Parent-Child Bond
By Maaliea Wilbur, MS, LMFT
In a society where many of us aim for the best of the best and strive towards perfection, it is only expected that this idealistic mentality can push its way into the standards held by today’s parents. With hundreds of recommended parenting books, websites, apps and other easily accessible resources at the modern day parents fingertips, there is an overwhelming tone set forth about the “how-to” of being a great parent and nurturing the bond you have with your children. Unfortunately, parents can lose their ability to develop a healthy genuine bond in an all out attempt at being the best.
So what’s the trick to mastering and maintaining a true and genuine bond with your child? Unfortunately, there is no trick. The key is to rather have a variety of strategies to pull from, to not be too critical of yourself during the process and to focus inward on you and your child and to not compare yourself with others.
Instead, focus on finding the right balance of effort and energy that in which creates a healthy, nurturing and enjoyable relationship between you and your child. Remember that there is no absolute “right way” and to be mindful that different parenting techniques work for different children under different circumstances. Don’t expect to be perfect. Parenting will most likely be your most difficult job over the course of your life. So, give yourself a break and check out these tips to discover what may work best for keeping you and your child connected.
1. Offer your time and direct attention: By being consistently available for your child, he or she will feel as if they are a priority for you. This can help children gain a sense of being important, cared about, and ultimately secure in their bond with a parent.
2. Provide empathy and understanding: Let your child know that you acknowledge and care about their thoughts and feelings. This can be a helpful factor in allowing them to feel understood and better connected to you as a parent. Children need the consistency of a reliable and loving parent who will provide support and guidance.
3. Provide appropriate validation: Parents can help show support (while not always agreeing with) of their child’s feelings, thoughts, opinions, and ideas. This can help your child understand that you appreciate and understand their point of view.
4. Create opportunities to provide your child with trust: Offering age appropriate responsibilities can encourage the development of basic confidence in a child’s ability to learn new things and to feel capable and competent in their world and in their relationships.
5. Give your child choices: Offering choices can help build independence while also providing your child some level of control over their environment and decisions. This allows a child to feel trusted by you as a parent and in turn allows the development a stronger bond.
6. Provide regular encouragement and recognition: Showing approval, appreciation and praise for your child’s choices and experiences can offer a sense of unconditional support despite their potential uncertainty, indecision or anxieties.
7. Engage in physical touch and affection: Providing frequent physical contact and interaction to your child can help them feel supported, affectionate, and loved. Setting a positive and healthy “emotional tone” with your child and can directly impact the parent-child bond.
8. Offer unconditional respect: Although you may not always agree with your child, it is important to help them understand that you respect their individual thoughts, feelings, and needs. By offering respect, they too can learn to respect others, including you.
9. Offer guidance and direction: As a parent, you function as a lifelong teacher and mentor to your child. Although children need guidance and direction, remember to leave room for your child to have choice and control as well.
10. Manage your set of expectations: Maintain appropriate and reasonable expectations for your child, your parenting abilities, and your parent-child relationship. This can help create moments of success rather than experiences of disappointment and failure.
11. Avoid anger, hostility and sarcasm: Role modeling and teaching your child how to remain calm rather than reactive in situations can provide the know-how to implement calming techniques and self-control in and out of relationships.
12. Provide regular routines: Offering consistent and predictable routines in child’s environment and within relationships can help the child learn to self-regulate and allow them to better understand what is expected of them.
13. Make room for independence and freedom: Allowing your child to have their own space to learn, grow and express themselves (with appropriate limit-setting of course) can help them develop confidence and trust in their relationship with you and others.
14. Find time for FUN: Creating time to appreciate and enjoy the fun in life is an absolute necessity. This allows opportunity for you and your child to strengthen your bond and continue to grow in your relationship.
15. Use laughter and smiles: Laughing and smiling with your child can instantaneously create a warm feeling of acceptance, love and connection to you as a parent that will transfer to other relationships as well.
Maintaining connection and developing an early emotional bond with your child can lead to remarkable outcomes. It can truly affect all aspects of a child’s behavior and development. When a strong parent-child bond is able to be created and nurtured, children become capable of developing trust that a parent will help them survive, thrive, and offer them love, acceptance, positive guidance, and protection.
It has been proven that children who have these bonding opportunities early in life, have the best chance at long term healthy development often associated with better academic performance, healthier choices and behaviors, more positive social and peer interactions, and an increased ability to cope with life and stress.
Overall, there is a lot that parents can do to stay connected and to work towards building healthy bonds with their child. There are two important things to remember: First, don’t forget that it is an ongoing process and will take time to develop. Second, remember that this is one of the most important things that you can offer your child and that it will definitely be worth the time and energy!