There’s nothing like the connection between a parent and a child. For that reason, perhaps nothing builds angst and heartache in the heart of a parent like struggling to bond with a child.
It’s not just heartache that we feel though. We often feel shame. Why am I struggling to connect with my own child? What am I doing wrong? How can I strengthen that bond?
Consider these five ways to bond with your child.
1) Spend One-on-One Time
Children often feel closest to those they share experiences with. If you do not have a habit of sharing special experiences with your child, they will not feel close to you.
As adults, we often develop relationships with people who share our interests. Find a common topic of interest and suddenly you’re having a great conversation with a near perfect stranger.
Kids just don’t work like this. When was the last time you had a 5 or 10 minute conversation with your three year-old? They bond over common activities, not shared intellectual concepts. So bond with your child by playing with their Legos or stuffed animals.
One more note: it’s important to really give your child your full attention. It’s not enough to take her to an arcade while you’re on your phone the whole time. One-on-one time will only hold meaning to your child if she can tell you’re fully present.
2) Ask the Right Questions
Millions of kids arrive home from school each day to face the age-old question, “How was school today?”
Sometimes age-old rituals are still around because they work. This is not one of those types of rituals; it’s just a bad question. Yet parents keep asking it and complaining that their children just aren’t talkative.
Here are some better alternatives:
- What was the best thing that happened to you today?
- What made you really happy today?
- What was the best thing you did with your friends today?
- What did you do that was new today?
I often find that bedtime is a great time to work through questions like these.
3) Read Books Together
Author Kathy Szaj writes, “As a forever lover of books and reading, and a writer of children’s books, I am unabashedly biased: Reading with kids is one of the best ways to bond . . . ever.”
Start with something small. Read for five minutes every night before your child heads to bed. Being present like this will go a long way in creating a strong bond.
If your child is more of a hands-on learner, you may alternatively enjoy writing a story together. After writing the story, you can illustrate it together.
If neither of these options appeal to your child, consider telling her a story about your childhood each night. Tell her about traveling to your grandparents or about your best friends when you were growing up.
4) Plan a Special Trip
While an occasional special trip will not substitute for a habit of spending time together, it can act as an occasional catalyst to grow your relationship.
Does your child love animals? Plan a trip together to the zoo. Pull up the zoo’s website and look through the exhibits together. Then go to the library and check out a few books on animals before you go.
Set a date a week or so in advance and watch her anticipation build. And, once again, be present. Put your phone away and just enjoy being with your child.
One more thought. It’s great to take pictures, but don’t be so distracted by capturing the moment that you don’t enjoy the time with your child.
5) Create Predictable Rituals
Most children love rituals. In predictability, they find security. So plan a few daily rituals into your home life.
For instance, have breakfast together every morning while sitting on the couch together and watching her favorite cartoon. Make this the only time you all eat out in the living room, setting it apart as a special time.
You can see from the example above that your rituals aren’t necessarily about adding new things to your day. You both have to eat, so why not make breakfast one of those rituals?
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