By Jeanne Huybrechts, Chief Academic Officer – Stratford School
Positive relationships between you and your child are built on quality time together. Time when you get to know about each other’s experiences, thoughts, feelings, and changing interests.
Quality time can happen anytime and anywhere, in the middle of ordinary days and situations. It can be a shared laugh when you’re bathing your toddler or a good conversation in the car with your teenager. These moments give you the chance to communicate positive messages with smiles, laughter, eye contact, hugs, and that special one-on-one interaction.
“Live so that when your children think of fairness, caring, integrity, and love, they think of you!”– H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
Researchers remind us that we need five positive interactions to every negative interaction to keep any relationship healthy. And since we spend so much time guiding — aka correcting, reminding, and suggesting — it’s important to make sure we spend five times as much time in positive connection.
Given that parenting is the toughest job on earth — and we live in a world with incessant demands on our time and attention, after being separated all day — the only way to keep a strong bond with our children is to build in daily habits of connection. Here are five examples that won’t add time to your day yet does add connection. Simple, and incredibly powerful, these can help heal the distractions and disconnections of everyday life and using them daily can change everything.
- Listen to your children. Really listen — especially when it is your child who initiated the conversation. Extend conversations by saying, “tell me more,” or asking follow-up questions. Give your full attention to your conversations with your child by putting down your cell phone when conversing or during family-time activities.
- Don’t be afraid to “parent.” Children and adolescents of all ages need strong guidance and limits. There are times when it is appropriate to be your child’s friend, but, for the most part, they need you to be the authority. They will feel “loved and connected” by feeling “safe” in your care.
- Share your daily world. As appropriate, bring your child into your world, remembering that you are “raising adults.” If possible, occasionally take them to your work and/or give them grown-up responsibilities that connect them to your world.
- Participate in their activities and play. Rather than watching your child play at the playground, join in the fun. Discover/cultivate fun activities that you can enjoy with your child. The goal should be to have a common hobby, something you enjoy doing together.
- Remember, a child’s path to adulthood is seldom linear. Children and adolescents will regularly advance, then regress, then advance again in their development. They seldom advance to developmental milestones on time or without detours or bumps in the road. During these cycles, they will necessarily want more autonomy or perhaps need more structure. Learning to “read” your child is an acquired skill, yet it is definitely worth cultivating.
Although there’s no set formula for getting your parent-child relationship right, when we make it a priority and do the things that make children feel loved, we create an upward parenting spiral. When children feel loved, they feel happy and are more positive, more cooperative, more loving, and more lovable. And when we build on warm, loving, and responsive interactions most of the time, your child will feel loved, secured, and connected.