Ivana Pejakovic, B.Sc., MA
A parent-child bond is perhaps one of most precious things in life. While a part of it is a natural phenomenon (work of biology), this bond also needs to be built, nourished, and maintained.
A child’s development, happiness, and his/her ability to form healthy relationships as an adult are dependent on the bond with mom and dad. Moms typically play the role of the nurturer and caregiver and dads are the authoritarians/ disciplinarians and play buddies at home. Because moms and dads play such a different role it is important that each parent is continually involved in the child’s life.
Everyday busyness and everyday situations often get in the way of nurturing and maintaining a strong parent-child bond. Parents find themselves busy working to provide the basic necessities of life and luxuries for their kids and they find themselves swamped with other responsibilities making it difficult to spend regular family time together.
Of course, if parents are divorced, it makes it a little harder for the parent with limited custody to spend the quality time with the child. If parents are divorced, separated, or not with the parent of the child, it is highly encouraged to speak to the child daily on the phone and let him/her share his life with you day by day.
Just like with anything else you wish to change or improve in your life, building your parent-child relationship must be something you want and something you are willing to make time for. The rewards will be enormous for your child and for you.
It is simple to nurture your parent-child bond with these everyday exercises:
1. Spend time together: Schedule some 1-on-1 time with each of your children. Mix it up. Sometimes you can stay at home and at other times you can plan an activity together. Make the time a regular part of your week (e.g. every Monday night 7PM to 8PM). When scheduled, both parties know to make themselves available in the evening. Most important, scheduled meetings are harder to brush off. This will show your child that s/he is important and can count on you being there.
2. Remember the good moments: Reminisce on the fun times you’ve spent together. Remember that moment at the cottage, remember the fun roller coaster ride, and remember the goofy times. These are the moments that will help strengthen your bond.
3. Communicate: Have an open door policy and an open line of communication. While this is easy to do when things are well, it also needs to occur during times of distress. This means no judging, no yelling, or storming off. Open communication also means speaking about those things you may normally avoid speaking to your child about (e.g., drinking, drugs, and sex and other age-appropriate topics).
4. Family values, traditions, and words of wisdom: Be sure to share your traditions and values with your kids and similar experiences you went through as a child. Family traditions and values will give your kids a sense of identity, a sense of belonging, and good memories with happy feelings.
5. Respect: Respect must go both ways. Respect sometimes gets lost when a parent and child have different viewpoints and neither can see the other’s perspective. With stubbornness and an inability to effectively communicate, disrespect enters the picture leading to a gap in your relationship with your child.
6. Appreciate: Tell your kids how much you appreciate them. Parents often find times to let their kids know about their mistakes. Make an effort to let them know about the good stuff too. It takes about 7 compliments to make up for a single criticism.
7. Family meals: Regular family meals (this includes preparation and clean up time) go a long way to build a bond. [According to research, the more often a family shares meals together, the less likelihood of criminal activity, low self-esteem, and body image issues]. Family meals is a good time to communicate, discuss every day things, inquire about your kids lives and just show you care.
8. I love you: Hearing “I love you” during the good days and the bad days keeps your child knowing s/he is lovable unconditionally. This can be as simple as poking your head in through your child’s bedroom door every night to say “Thanks for being mine. I love you.”
Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto