“Want to be a great parent? Want to raise a happy, healthy, well-behaved kid? Want to live in a home where discipline becomes unnecessary? The secret is to create a closer connection with your child.” ~ Laura Markham
2020 has been a whirlwind for everyone. Literally every human across the country has felt the rippling effects of the pandemic and its aftermath. We often talk about job loss, people getting sick, businesses closing, trips being canceled, events being postponed, etc. No question, it has been tough, but we have overlooked an entire group of humans who have had their lives turned upside down this year: Children.
Our littles have figuratively had the rug ripped out from under them. In a blink of an eye, they were out of school, could not play with friends, could not run in a park, had to wear masks, perhaps had a parent working at home (or out of the job altogether), and have had to deal with stress in their homes for something they may not fully understand. I empathize with adults and parents struggling with everything 2020 has brought, and I especially ache for children trying to make sense of everything. For this reason, I want to focus this blog on how you can connect with and strengthen your bond with your children.
- Tell them you love them. Everyone needs to hear the words, “I love you,” every day. Children are no exception! Tell them you love them unconditionally; it will help them feel secure in this world of uncertainty.
- Have meaningful physical contact. Family therapist Virginia Satir famously said, “We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.” Hug your child. Snuggle. Tickle. Wrestle. Scratch his/her back. This physical connection will lead to emotional connection and strengthen your relationship.
- Make them a priority. Sit together as a family for meals. Be there for your child when they get home from/leave to school. Establish a special code name, word, secret handshake. Play with them (let them decide what you do– “child-led play”), rough house with them, take them outside, go on one-on-one dates, etc. Make it a priority to spend some of whatever free time you have with them. This one-on-one time is everything when it comes to strengthening bonds!
- Practice rituals. In a world of complete upheaval, your children need some sort of consistency at home. The best way to do this will be with rituals: Reading stories after dinner, eating together as a family, going on family walks, praying together, worshipping together, snuggling at bedtime and chatting for pillow talk. The things you regularly and consistently do are rituals, and they stand as a testament of your love for your child(ren) that will last for years. Now more than ever your kids need rituals!
- Help them learn to manage their emotions. If you and I are grappling with everything going on around us, and we know how to process our emotions, imagine what these poor children are going through! They need our help to process feeling sad, lonely, confused, disappointed, scared, etc. Talk with them about what they are experiencing and validate those emotions. This is a powerful way to connect.
- Be available and present. Yes, adults have a lot to do. But if you tell your children, “Hey, I’ll be in the kitchen making dinner if you want me” or “I have to run to the grocery store, but don’t hesitate to call my cell phone if you need me,” they will know they are more important than your to-do list. Additionally, make sure you follow through and give them your full attention; put technology away and focus on them.
- LISTEN. Do you listen when your toddler prattles on interminably about her toys or what she is wearing or friends at preschool, even when you have more important things to think about? Listen to your littles! If you do, they will be more likely to talk with you as they get older.
- Talk about faith and/or spirituality. If 2020 has taught us anything, it is that we all need help. We need comfort, peace, hope, some sort of stability and the ability to continue forward even though the future is unknown. If you are leaning on your faith during this difficult time, I urge you to teach that and share your thoughts with your children.
- Let them help you. Sure, weeding or cooking a meal may take longer if they help you, but you will absolutely feel closer to your children after spending that quality time together. Plus, you will both have the memory of doing it together. Children feel powerful and valuable when they help…so let them!
Children are dependent upon their caregivers in more ways than one. They need your approval, support, help, ears, time, attention, affection and love. Make it a priority to connect with your littles; be there for them during this scary time. I assure you that as you make a concerted effort to get on their level and strengthen your bond, life will be easier for them and for you. 2020 has been a difficult year for everyone, but you can make it a special year as you focus on strengthening your important bonds to make it through this tough time. As always, my door is wide open should you have questions or need additional support. Contact me today!
Melissa Cluff is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist based in North Texas, providing face-to-face and telehealth therapy options to clients in Texas.
- Aha! Parenting: Building a Great Relationship with Your Child
- Psychology Today: 10 Habits to Strengthen a Parent-Child Relationship
- Very Well Mind: How to Strengthen Parent-Child Relationships
Parenting, father, dad, daddy, child, children, bond, trust, relationship, love, trust, mutual trust, home, house, family, counseling, therapy, therapist, Melissa Cluff, Cluff Counseling.