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Strengthen a Parent-Child Relationship Through Connection

Daily habits to increase connection with your child.

Key points

  • Tips for increasing connection with your child include welcoming their emotions, listening, and empathizing.
  • It may be helpful to slow down and share moments with your child, including bedtime snuggles and chats.
  • Try your best to be fully present with your child several times each day.

In our previous post, 10 Habits to Strengthen a Parent-Child Relationship, we introduced five habits for strengthening your relationship with your child. We continue the discussion in today’s post with five additional daily habits to increase connection with your child.

Monkey Business/AdobeStock
Source: Monkey Business/AdobeStock

6. Welcome emotion

Sure, it's inconvenient that kids have such big emotions. But your child needs to express those emotions to you, or they'll drive his behavior. Besides, this is an opportunity to help your child heal those upsets, which will bring you closer. So summon up all your compassion, don't let your child's anger trigger you, and welcome the tears and fears that always hide behind the anger. Remember that you're the one your child trusts enough to cry with, and breathe your way through it. Just acknowledge all those feelings and offer understanding of the pain. That creates safety, so he can move through those emotions and back into connection. Afterwards, he'll feel more relaxed, cooperative, and closer to you. Yes, most kids start by being angry, so you have to stay calm and patient in the face of their anger if you want the more vulnerable feelings to surface. This can be really, really hard. Regulating our own emotions in the face of our child's anger is one of the hardest parts of parenting. But that doesn't mean we're excused from giving it our best shot.

7. Listen and empathize

Connection starts with listening. Bite your tongue if you need to, except to say:

"Wow! ... I see ... Really? ... How was that for you? ... Tell me more ..."

The habit of seeing things from your child's perspective will ensure that you treat them with respect and look for win/win solutions. It will help you see the reasons for behavior that would otherwise drive you crazy. And it will help you regulate your own emotions so when your buttons get pushed and you find yourself in "fight or flight," your child doesn't look so much like the enemy.

8. Slow down and savor the moment

Instead of rushing your child through the schedule so you can spend a few minutes with them before bed, use every interaction all day long as an opportunity to connect. Slow down and share the moment with your child: let him smell the strawberries before you put them in the smoothie. When you're helping him wash his hands, put yours in the running water with his, and share the rush of the water. Smell his hair. Listen to his laughter. Look him in the eyes and meet him heart to open heart, sharing that big love. Connect in the magnificence of the present moment. Which is really the only way we can connect. (For most parents, this is also the secret to being able to tolerate playing that same game yet again.)

9. Bedtime snuggle and chat

Set your child's bedtime a wee bit earlier with the assumption that you'll spend some time visiting and snuggling in the dark. Those companionable, safe moments of connection invite whatever your child is currently grappling with to the surface, whether it's something that happened at school, the way you snapped at her this morning, or her worries about tomorrow's field trip. Do you have to resolve her problem right then? No. Just listen. Acknowledge feelings. Reassure your child that you hear her concern, and that together you'll solve it, tomorrow. The next day, be sure to follow up. You'll be amazed how your relationship with your child deepens. And don't give this habit up as your child gets older. Late at night is often the only time teens will open up.

10. Show up

Most of us go through life half-present. But your child has only about 900 weeks of childhood with you before they leave your home. They'll be gone before you know it.

Try this as a practice: When you're interacting with your child, show up 100%. Just be right here, right now, and let everything else go. You won't be able to pull this off all the time. But if you make it a habit several times a day, you'll find yourself shifting into presence more and more often.

And you'll find a lot more of those moments that make your heart melt.

This is the second part of a two-part series. The first post of the series is 10 Habits to Strengthen a Parent-Child Relationship.

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