The relationship between a parent and their child is a unique bond that nurtures the holistic growth and development of a child. It lays the foundation for their behavior, personality, traits and values. The COVID-19 pandemic has often tested that bond from the struggle of back and forth learning and not being able to take breaks from constantly being around each other. So why is a positive and healthy parent-child relationship important?
Children who have a healthy relationship with their parents are more likely to develop positive relationships with others around them. They can establish secure bonds and friendships with peers. They are better at regulating their emotions when faced with stress and difficult decisions. A secure attachment with parents helps promote a child’s cognitive, emotional and social development. It helps kids exhibit positive social behaviors. The healthy involvement of parents in their kid’s day to day life helps ensure that their kids can perform better socially and academically. Children who have secure and positive relationships with their parents learn essential skills and values that set them on the path for future success.
So, how can you ensure that you maintain a healthy relationship with your child?
- Constantly express your love for your child. It may sound very basic, but it is a must for every parent to tell their kids they love them. Children need to constantly feel loved and secure. Make it a point to tell them you love them as they grow, no matter the age, even amid disagreements and misunderstandings.
- Give them attention outside of the busy daily schedule of work and school. Whether they are playing with their toys, watching television or enjoying their snacks, take time to sit with them. Simply talk to them, play with them, engage with them and give them undivided attention.
- Eat meals together. It is important to find time to sit as a family and have conversations and share about your days.
- Make sure you are validating their feelings. If your child comes to you to share their feelings about anything, be sure to welcome them. Hear them out and make them feel they are understood. Whatever is causing their distress, be there for them. Don’t judge them. Validate their feelings and be open to discuss it with them.
- If you have multiple children, make sure you look for those one-on-one opportunities. It is important to make each child feel valued and special individually, even if it is as small as a walk around the neighborhood or going to the park. Look for those moments to create those memories.
Some people may ask what about older kids: how do you maintain a healthy relationship with them? Your relationship with an older child looks a lot different than one with your younger child. As kids grow up, they don’t want to be treated or talked to as though they are a little kid anymore. Here are some tips on maintaining a healthy relationship with your older kids.
- Keep calm in the winds of change. Nothing gets resolved when you are too stressed to think. If you cannot respond rationally to something your teen did, take a break until you can.
- Talk less and listen more. Just like us fully-formed humans, teens want to be listened to with respect. Always be a "safe" and available person for your child to talk to. That doesn't mean you have to accept or agree with everything, but letting your teen talk openly (without interrupting), gives them a chance to hear their own ideas played out loud. It also provides a window into their problem-solving strengths and limitations. You can use that to help them.
- Respect their boundaries. It can often be challenging for parents to grant their teens increasingly more privacy and autonomy. But, to create good judgements, they need lots of opportunities to make mistakes and learn from them. Encourage their learning.
- Try to catch them doing something right. Teens struggle with self-confidence. When they aren't dumping on themselves, their peers may do it for them. Don't add your voice to the chorus of negativity. Actively look for things your kids are doing right. Your praise shows you notice more than their faults. It will also increase their feelings of competency.
- Lighten up – humor is a great de-stressor. Try to remember no one stays a teen forever (or the parent of one), so have fun together!
Good and healthy relationships can help kids lead a longer, happy life. It is good for their overall health. It doesn’t matter what the child’s circumstances are, they have the right to a happy, safe home. They need to see different relationships and how to build upon them in a positive way. The only way they can see that is through their parents who they constantly look up to. Make sure that you are taking care of yourself in order to maintain a healthy relationship with your children and make sure you are modeling what a healthy relationship is.
This blog was written by Cassidy Peil, Crisis Specialist at Community Reach Center.