Raising a secure child
A lot of parents spent a whole lot of time organizing, planning and executing their plan. They make sure that there will be enough savings for university, that their kids get good grades in school, finish their homework, pack their bags, eat their lunch, get to tuition/school in time, behave in public, mind their manners, mix with the correct crowd and the list goes on and on.. At the same time, making sure that the house is tidy and nice, and that their career soars.
These same parents (in the later years) may also complain that they just cannot connect with their child (especially teens) anymore. Any questions asked will simply be brushed off with a single word answer by their child. Or any genuine feeling of care will be translated into something negative and intrusive. The only conversation that the parent will most likely to have with the child is when the child needs his/her pockets money. Most small children tend to shy away from their parents and be closer to the caregiver. All these create a lot of disharmony in the family.
What’s lacking in most parent-child relationship these days is the emotional connection that would nurture a child to feel secure in his /her life. Secure children tend to be genuinely happy, have positive relationships with peers and teachers, tends to do better in school, are seen as more attractive and have close relationship with their parents, as well as their own children. They also have a good conscience to choose between right and wrong doings.
It’s very easy to neglect / overlook this aspect of parenting – that EQ in kids should hold the most important part in our lives as parents, especially when parents are too busy with their career or with other things in life. Although it might not seem like it at times, parents should be the ones in charge of the emotional relationships with their children. Parents have more of everything – more knowledge, more control, and more power – therefore, more ability to change.
To be emotionally connected to your child is more that just to spend your free time with your child. It’s to be a part of your child’s life, to know your child as who they are (not what parents expect the child to be), to make time for you child when he/she needs you (not when you need them), and to be truly interested in their life (without validating or intruding). Discipline will also be a lot easier with emotionally secure children. These children do not translate acts of discipline as an intrusion into their lives rather; an act of love and care by their parents.
10 ways to nurture emotional connection with your child*
1. Play with your child
Rather than just ask “How was school?” set aside a time to play with your child. Sounds easy? It is! Playing with your child will reveal your child’s internal world – the world that he or she might not reveal in other ways. It gives you the opportunity to learn about what’s worrying him/her, what’s on their mind, what issues they are working on and of course, having fun together.
2. Use music
Create music together by dancing or singing. Or have it in the background. Play, sing and dance to silly music. Music allows you to connect with your child without having the formal interaction.
3. Videotape yourself in interaction with your child
Videotaping is a great way of spotting your own patterns as well as giving you a chance to pick up some of the emotional cues (verbal and non-verbal) that you don’t normally notice on an everyday basis. Get a friend to evaluate it together as “two heads are better than one”
4. Take the time to observe carefully
Each child is different so take your time to observe them carefully. Write these memories down as they will serve as a written emotional connection with your child when he/she grows up. Parents with emotionally secured children could always recall events with vivid details.
5. Discuss your interactions with your child with other parents
Having known the guidelines of an emotional available parent, talk to other parents about your experiences. Share ideas / strategies. Get positive emotional supports from families & friends. No parents’ perfect and nobody should go thru life alone.
6. Try to understand your child’s experience
What you actually do isn’t related to your child’s experience of what you do. No matter how wonderful you are as parent, your child’s experience of you may not be so. When talking to your child, ask about his/her feelings and openly discuss about what’s on their minds. Your child will understand that you care about what he/she feels, and will begin to trust you more. Communicative parents can be approached about both positive and difficult topics, creating the context for sharing of confidences. This is very important in their adolescent years.
7. Share a range of emotions with your child – and plenty of positive ones
Sharing positive emotions doesn’t mean that you can’t share negative ones. During playtime or when talking to your child, display lots of positive emotions such as being supportive and help to problem solve when your child has a problem. Do not feed more anxiety to the child. Try to create a positive and pleasurable experience for your child.
8. Be the emotional follower rather than the leader
Allowing your child to lead during play and following his/her lead in activities is important. One of the best things about parenting is that you can be available without doing anything special. Children who are given more opportunities to lead tend to develop more sense of self-action and empowerment.
9. Be real and genuine with your child
Be real with your child. Saying “I love you” and smiling a lot are positive only if they are real and not sugarcoating. Most children can sense when their parents are suppressing their negative emotions and this can create more pain than it is worth. They may think that their own negative emotions are also bad or that parents do not love them anymore. Rather than denying your stress or the existence of a conflict, it might be worthwhile to show your child how you can positively cope with such challenging situations.
10. Work on your emotions, especially during tiring and stressful times
Most parents tend to “lose it” when they are tired or stressed. Be aware of what is happening and take control of it. Parents, who can manage their anger, boredom, sarcasm (not just bottling them up) even when they are tired or stressed, are more likely to have children who can do the same for themselves.
Emotional connection isn’t difficult to achieve. It just takes a little practice, a little humor, and most important, a lot of love and a strong desire to make a difference in your child’s life. So the next time when you feel unconnected with your child, or when you feel that your child doesn’t love you, look at yourself in the mirror – the problem may just be YOU.
Dr. Z Biringen, Emotional Connection Between You & Your Child; 2004