Like any relationship, the bond between a parent and child takes work, effort and intentionality. Building a strong bond with your children isn’t about big gestures or events—it’s the little things that add up. The small ways you consistently show up day after day, week after week are what communicate love to your children.
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.
Below are ideas to help you create habits that can be easily incorporated into your everyday routines to foster a strong relationship with your children.
What Kids Need From You
It’s important to know what kids need to feel safe, secure, and loved. Here are things children need consistently to build a strong foundation to build an even stronger bond over time.
Time and 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.
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.
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.
Trust: Showing your child that you trust them can build their confidence and help them feel more safe and secure. Start by giving your child age-appropriate chores or responsibility. This helps them feel like an important part of the family and shows that you trust them to perform their responsibilities.
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.
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.
Independence: 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.
Boundaries: Showing your child early on how to set and maintain their own boundaries, as well as respect other peoples’ boundaries is a skill that will serve them throughout their life. 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.
Habits to Help You Bond With Your Child
Eat meals together
An impressive body of research has shown a link between regular meals with kids and an increased likelihood of positive developmental benefits such as better health and eating habits; strong mental, emotional, and social skills; improved behavior; and better academic performance.
Even if you can’t find time to have dinner together every night, schedule family meals whenever you can, as much as you can. If your weeknights are packed with late hours at the office or extracurricular activities, you can still find solutions, such as having breakfast or snacks together. The key is to make family meals fun, talk about the day, and stay connected with your kids.
Having conversations daily
The car and bedtime are great places to get your child to open up. Try to ask open-ended questions that don’t have a right or wrong answer. Spend time listening rather than responding. You’ll be surprised how much your child will open up when they feel comfortable and safe.
Even just 10 minutes of intentional play with your child can help them feel closer to you. Put the phone down, and take time to do something your child enjoys.
There is something about accomplishing something together that strengthens the bond between people—event parents and children. Tackle a project at home together. Maybe organizing the garage or your child’s bedroom or even just everyday chores. Doing it together will make for lighter work, connection and even some fun!
If you are ready to get help, let’s do this, together. Don’t hesitate to reach out: