Have you ever seen your child trip and hurt their knee at the park? What’s the first thing that they do before they start crying? Yep, they search for you – their protector. It is instinctive for a child to connect to their parents for safety and security in moments like this. As a parent, moments like this give you a great learning opportunity on how to connect with your child.
Humans are biologically wired to seek connection. A child who is just learning how the world works express fear of abandonment or longing for more of their caregivers by seeking attention and connection. Sadly most parents today tend to dwell on the first thing – “attention-seeking.” Often, they see it as a bad thing, even shameful. But is seeking attention and trying to connect with your parents such a bad thing?
Educator and Director of the Early Childhood Education Program at Rider University, Tamar Jacobson, wants to change this attitude towards children. She said “What if instead of saying ‘she is just doing it for attention…ignore her,’ we say ‘She is doing it for a relationship.’”
In a relationship, you do not ignore a person’s emotions. If someone is upset, you present yourself for comfort. You listen, observe, and provide support. The same attitude should be applied to your children. You need to listen to them and validate their emotions. Take them seriously for what they are and what they are trying to do and say to you. Connect with them. A strong parent-child relationship is built by a strong emotional connection. The result is often a stronger and more resilient child.
How To Connect With Your Child in 10 Ways
Here are some tips from the experts on how to connect with your child.
Cuddle up every day
Physical touch is one of the best things you can do to connect with your children. It tells your kids they are safe without using any words. Hug your children and kiss them when they wake up. Say goodbye when they leave for school with a tight hug.
American psychotherapist and family therapy pioneer Virginia Satir once 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!”
Luckily, your children love to snuggle. Snuggling and playing with your child brings out the best emotions. It’s a win-win for you too, as sometimes, you need that big hug as much as your child does.
Children learn through playing, and they learn better through cooperative play. Playing does a lot of things to their brain. For one, it stimulates the production of endorphins and oxytocin, the hormones that promote empathy, trust, and stronger relationships. Endorphin is also the body’s natural pain reliever.
Laugh with your child, and laugh often
Laughter helps shift tension and stress for both you and your child. No need for elaborate plans, you can laugh and have fun by simply blowing up balloons, piggyback rides, or playing bucking broncos.
The young ones also love to hide and seek, and they usually jump out of their hiding spots. It’s a great chance to laugh with your child.
Welcome their emotions
One of the best things you can teach your child is helping them express their emotions. Help your child identify different emotions and label them. Provide understanding regarding their emotions. More importantly, never let your child’s anger trigger your own.
Listen and empathize
You cannot connect without listening. So listen to what they have got to say. Anytime you feel like you want to say something, bite your tongue, or instead, say something like “Wow…Tell me more…”
Make it a habit to see things from your child’s perspective. Treat them with respect. Do not just tell her what to do. Rather, find a win-win solution for both of you. This way, you can better regulate your own emotions as well.
You do not have to offer advice all the time. While it is easy (and tempting) to jump in and tell her what you think is the best thing to do, try to avoid the temptation. Children want to know that you empathize with them, just like their trusted friends.
Find time for one-on-one time with your child
Spend 15 to 30 minutes with your child each day. You do not have to go to expensive places and spend lots of money. Just spending quality time with your children will help you connect with them better.
Make a huge deal out of small moments
Spend more time with your children and celebrate these times. One of the best ways to go about this is to let them direct you to whatever kind of play they want. If your child wants to build blocks, then build blocks.
Savor each moment
Instead of rushing to fit your child into your schedule, slow down and savor each moment. Look for every opportunity to connect. Spend every moment with your child whenever possible. It doesn’t matter when, it could be before bedtime or before getting up from bed in the morning.
Turn tech off
When interacting with your child, make sure you limit anything that may distract you. Turn off your mobile phone, or turn off the music in your car. Make your child feel they are important by giving them your full attention.
Look them in the eye
Their stories may sound ridiculous, but if she is serious about it, then look her in the eye as you listen to every detail. Follow through the conversation by asking questions to keep the ball rolling.
Each parent has an idea or vision of who they would like their child to be. In most cases though, vision does not match reality. For the most part, these visions are the product of parents’ frustrations – they project their own dreams onto their children.
What you need to realize is your children have their own dreams. The best thing you can do is to show your love and support through a strong emotional connection.