However you wish to look at it, most of us would probably agree that the foundation to parenting well comes down to relationship – relationship is primary. Whether you phrase it “connection” or “attachment” or “bond” it is a crucial element in forming the foundation to parenting well.
In today’s blog, I will be covering Chapter 3 “The First Essential Need: A Loving Parent-Child Bond” in the book Parenting Well in a Media Age by Gloria DeGaetano.
“The bond between a parent and child is the primary bond, the foundation for the rest of the child’s life. The presence or absence of this bond determines much about the child’s resiliency and what kind of adult they will grow up to be.” – Jane Fonda
Maintaining healthy, strong relationships takes time and effort and it is human nature to sometimes take our “nearest and dearest” for granted. As parents in todays busy, media influenced, highly scheduled world it is especially hard to “find” the time to spend quality time with our children. Just being in their company is not “enough” for what is required to really bond with them. If we want to build a strong connection with them, we need to make time to do this: time away from other distractions be it our phones, chores or even thoughts. They need 100% of us for dedicated “moments” or times each and every day. At these times they need our undivided attention.
In this chapter, the author poses some thought provoking questions on “Quality Time”:
- What is quality time for you?
- What does it mean?
- What does it look like?
- Do you know when you have it?
DeGaetano goes on to add that quality time is characterized by 3 important elements:
- An experience of shared feelings
- A valuing of each other
- Recognition of connection
“If the relationship between parent and child is not constructed from a deep foundation of loving inter-relatedness it will be difficult for parents to demonstrate enough love so the kids know it is there.” – Gloria DeGaetano
Gordon Neufeld, the well known author of “Hold On To Your Kids” highlights the six stages of attachment he believes core to developing healthy relationships and as you can see, they are inter-dependent and inter-related and indeed similar to the 3 key elements outlined by DeGaetano above.
- Being Known
It seems clear that in order to build and strengthen the bond we have with our children for we need to experience all of these core elements. Children need time with us where they are physically close to us, made to feel special and accepted for who they are. When parents are respectful of this, their children feel valued and appreciated, significant and heard. Children need to know that you have their backs and will always be there for them and that no matter what, you love them unconditionally. It is only through getting enough of this deep and profound love that a child will develop enough trust in the relationship, with themselves and with you, to let their guard down in such a way to share their feelings with you and expose their vulnerability, the final stage of attachment (6.) above.
“With a fragile parent-child bond, life is more difficult for parents too. We move out of the role as parent and into one of a controller or director, ever trying to force, cajole, nag and persuade our kids to listen, behave, and do “as we say” – Gloria DeGaetano
It is especially important to work at maintaining a strong bond during the challenging times as this is when your relationship is tested the most and therefore needs supported the most. You love your child no matter what but you do not always love the behavior and when dealing with challenging issues or “misbehavior”, making this distinction and letting you child know this, by separating the deed from the do-er, may help you preserve and support the relationship during turbulent times.
The author is a big proponent of using encouraging language and phrasing things in such a way as to come from a place of hope. She also believes strongly in using appreciative language as a technique to strengthen the bond we have with our children and gives lots of wonderful examples of appreciative statements that the reader can use and try out with their children. She lists these (Pg 88 – 91) in specific age categories because what might be seen as “appreciative language” for a toddler might not be seen as appreciative by a teenager!
DeGaetano suggests some ideas for strengthening the bond with your children:
- The better you take care of yourself, the more present and available you will be for your kids. Make sure you invest time in your own health and well-being
- Make sure you do something each day with your child that excites and energizes you both
- Keep distractions to a minimum so your child feels free to open up to you
- When you find yourself distracted while your child is talking to you, admit it and either bring yourself back to the present or suggest that you talk another time
- Ask your child what works for them to have an enjoyable time together
- Setting aside 3 or 4 regular intervals each day to talk with your child
- Reflect and consider the bond you had with your parents and use these experiences to be a better parent
She does stress that we are all unique and that different things will work for different people but to find what works for you and make it an important part of your family’s daily life.
Some other ideas might include:
- Slowing down from the fast pace of life and making sure you have time for quality time with your children
- Having respect for each other
- Trying to be proactive for as much of the time rather than reactive
- Having Family Meetings
- Doing a family activity that you all enjoy ie. sport, board games, hike, picnic
- Creating bed time routines and rituals that are nourishing and nurturing
- Having family meals together
- Connecting with your child every time they leave you and reunite with you
- Having fun, stimulating conversations with your children – reflecting on fun times from the past or discussing a current news topic
- Sharing with them stories of your past when you were a kid
- Having family photo nights and sharing memories
- Creating family traditions and rituals (eg. Friday Movie & Popcorn nights)
- One on one dates with your children
- Talking to each other in the car rather than always having music on
If you are looking for more ideas on how to connect specifically with your teenager, I would encourage you to take a look at one of my earlier blogs on this subject. In this, I refer to an excellent book called Brainstorm by Dan Siegel which explains this adolescent stage extremely well.
DeGaetano goes on to conclude this excellent chapter on how to strengthen the parent-child bond quite beautifully and profoundly:
“No one should ever expect to parent perfectly. When we have a strong relationship with our kids, however, the mistakes we make will have less severe consequences… Love is the ultimate teacher. By letting it guide us, we learn, grow, and develop new ways of understanding our children, as well as ourselves…The bonds we develop and maintain with our children surround us with an enlivening love. Each day with our child, then, becomes a treasured time; an awesome adventure – just the way it was meant to be.”
PS. If you like what you are reading, I would like to invite you to sign up for our weekly Newsletter which will send only this blog to your inbox once a week. It currently goes out at 5am on a Saturday morning. To do this, please go to the top left corner on our web site and fill in the “Sign Up” icon for the Newsletter.
PPS. If you think your friends might like to receive this parenting information, please feel free to pass on our details. Also, please don’t forget to follow us and “LIKE” us on Facebook and “FOLLOW US” on Twitter @YPPartner, every bit helps towards making this a better world for our children to thrive and flourish.