9 Daily Habits to Help Strengthen Your Parent-Child Bond
Raising children is both immensely rewarding and extremely challenging. Though you’ll likely encounter no shortage of parenting advice along the way, it’s important to remember every child is different. Being consistently sensitive and responsive to your child’s needs can help strengthen your emotional bond and create a base for a healthy, positive relationship with one another.
Healthy bonds help kids learn how to regulate their own emotions and behaviors, as well as develop self-confidence. They lay a foundation from which children can learn, explore, and connect with others. Experts refer to this type of solid emotional bond between parents and children as secure attachment.
As with any relationship, the bond between a child and their parents can be strengthened with habits that can be easily integrated into your daily routine.
1. Listen and empathize
Bond-building begins with listening. That means holding back on your own commentary unless you’re interjecting with things like, “Really?... How did you feel about that?... Wow!... Tell me more…”
Making a habit of trying to see situations from your child’s point of view will help you to treat each other with mutual respect and look for better compromises. It will allow you to understand why they may behave a certain way and manage your own feelings so that when you’re feeling triggered, you don’t subconsciously make your child the bad guy.
2. Eat together
There is a substantial amount of research highlighting the benefits of family meals. Studies show a positive relationship between frequent family meals and increased self-esteem and school success. Frequent family meals are also associated with a decreased risk of disordered eating, alcohol and substance use, violent behavior, and feelings of depression or thoughts of suicide in adolescents.
A family meal may not be possible every single night, but try to plan them as frequently as possible. If parents work late or kids have a lot of after-school obligations, consider making breakfast a priority instead. The goal is to make eating together fun, talk about what’s going on in your lives together, and stay connected.
3. Play together
Having fun together is an amazing way to bond with your child. Do a puzzle or play a board game together. Go for a walk or throw a ball around outside. Do an arts-and-crafts project together or bake a batch of cookies. It doesn’t really matter what the activity is as long as it’s something you have fun doing together.
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4. Do chores together
Children love being helpful. Giving them age-appropriate chores and responsibilities is a great way to make them feel valued and increase their self-confidence. Praise their efforts (not necessarily the results) and express your appreciation for their assistance. Not only will it strengthen your bond, but it will also help your children grow into kind, competent humans who care about helping others.
5. Stop and smell the roses
It’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of daily life. Try to slow your pace and really savor each moment with your child. Enjoy the feel of their little hand in yours as you take a walk. Look them in the eyes and feel the love between you. Soak in the music of their laughter. Stay truly in the beauty of the present moment.
6. Make space for big emotions
Even very little children can have big emotions. Keeping those feelings pent up can drive their behavior in some not-so-positive ways. As a parent, you have an opportunity to help heal those hurts and create a stronger bond between the two of you. Acknowledge their big emotions and show empathy and understanding for what’s upsetting them. Offering them a safe place to fall with their emotions helps them process those feelings and return to a sense of connectedness. Afterward, they’ll feel calmer, be easier to get along with, and feel closer to you. Often for parents, this means holding yourself together and not letting an emotional outburst from your child trigger anger in you. That can be really challenging, but staying patient and calm during their moments of rage is key if you want the connection that can follow.
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7. Show mutual respect
Your kids will wear you out, and they’re bound to make some errors in judgment along the way. Regardless, parents should always strive to treat their children with mutual respect. Even in situations that require discipline or punishment, you can still interact with your children in a patient, loving way.
Research has shown that screaming and spanking are ineffective ways to discipline children and have harmful effects. Over the short term, spanking has been found to harm the bond between a parent and child and lead to anti-social behavior, depression, increased aggressive misbehavior, and low self-esteem among children. Researchers also found that spanking leads to anti-social behavior, mental illnesses, and anxiety later in life.
Avoid modeling the use of aggression as a means of controlling the behavior of others. Instead, strengthen your bond by striving to treat one another with courtesy and respect. Model good manners both inside and outside the home (say “thank you” and “please,” and remind kids to do the same). Not only will it bring you closer together, but it will make your home a happier place to be.
8. Bedtime chats
Schedule your child’s bedtime a little bit earlier than they need so that you can spend a few minutes talking and snuggling with them. That cozy, safe time to reconnect is often a great opportunity for your child to vent about whatever troubles are worrying them at the moment. And guess what? You don’t have to fix it. Simply listen and empathize. Comfort and encourage your child that their worries have been heard and understood and that you’ll work it out the next day. Then be sure to do it. This technique is effective with children even as they get older. Late nights are often when a teen is most likely and willing to chat.
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9. Give lots of hugs
Cuddles are a great way to connect with your child. Some studies even suggest they improve your immune system and lower your chances of becoming ill. Strive for multiple hugs throughout the day to really strengthen your parent-child bond.
There’s so much in day-to-day life that distracts us from really being fully present with our children. But while the days may be long, the years fly by, as the old saying goes. Your children will be grown before you know it. Whatever you do with your children, try to stay fully in the moment and always come from a place of love, calm, and respect. By being a sensitive and responsive parent, you can help set your children on a positive path, teach them self-control, minimize the likelihood of difficult behavior, and build a tender, loving parent-child relationship.
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