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Connecting With Your Child

When you make time to connect, your child learns they are important, loved and cared for. This helps them thrive emotionally and physically!

Little girl and dad dressed up drinking tea

How can you connect with your child?

Connecting with your child helps them to feel safe and to trust that they can rely on you for support, love and affection. 

Here are some things you can do to help you connect with your child:

 

Spend time doing things together - Let your child take the lead and show you how they want to share time together. Spending time with your child might involve things like: talking, singing songs, playing games, sports, reading stories or baking something together.

Be present - Avoid distractions and give your child your full attention. Try to find a work-family balance by ‘switching off’ from other activities and being present when you are with your child. If you remember something you need to do, try to put the thought aside and make a note to come back to it later.

Show affection - It lets your child know that you care about them and develops trust and closeness. As parents we all have different ways of showing affection. Some examples are: giving hugs, kisses, smiling, high fives, a pat on the back or saying things like ‘I love you’ or ‘I’m proud of you’.

Praise the things your child is doing well - When you see or hear that your child has done something well praise them. It could be something as simple as: sharing toys, dressing themselves, using utensils well when eating, asking for things politely or playing with others without arguments.

Connecting with your child is important

Connecting with your child helps you to acknowledge and respond to your child’s experiences and emotions while building understanding. It helps them to learn:

  • Confidence in their abilities and self-esteem
  • To cope with problems, disappointments and challenges
  • They are supported with any problems they have and can work out a solution without conflict or blame
  • They are loved and valued for who they are
  • To stay positive and accept that everyone makes mistakes and you can learn from them
  • Social skills around communication, sharing, being a good friend and connecting with others

Positive communication is the key

You communicate with your child every day. Sometimes it’s just about telling them to put their shoes on or to eat their vegetables!

But when we pay attention to and talk about their feelings, thoughts, and needs it becomes ‘positive communication’. It might not be realistic to do this all the time, but small moments of connection throughout the day can make a difference.

Here are some tips that can help you to develop some positive communication with your child:

  • Talk with your child – Follow your child’s lead around the pace and topic of conversation. Listen and show interest by asking specific questions and waiting for their answers. Talking with your child in an attentive way encourages them to be more open and share more with you.
  • Be attentive – Pay attention to your child’s body language, their emotions and what they say. By noticing these things it helps you to understand and be there for your child in a way that matches how they feel and what they need. This is called ‘tuning in’ to your child. You may start to notice patterns and personality quirks. You can also figure out what your child needs and when they need it.
  • Recognise and respond to feelings – Ask your child about their feelings and listen without judgement. This helps them to feel heard and cared for. Talk about how you and other people feel too. It can help your child to become more comfortable talking about and naming their feelings.
  • Listen – Show an interest in what’s going on for them. Work together to come up with ideas or solutions to a problem they may have. Show that your child’s ideas and what they are saying is important to you.
  • Communicate clearly – Try to be honest and real about your own feelings. This means you aren’t sending mixed messages that can be confusing eg. saying one thing and doing another. Actions can often speak louder than words. It can be helpful to explain to your child if something goes differently than how you said it would.
  • Set an example of positive and respectful communication – Listen and talk with your child in a calm and caring way even when setting boundaries or using discipline. Show respect for your child’s point of view and their needs. Role modelling caring and respectful communication helps your child learn how to do this with others.

Taking care of your child also means taking care of yourself

As a parent we can sometimes forget to take care of ourselves. It might feel too ‘selfish’ to take a break or do something nice for ourselves.

But giving yourself a break and looking after your wellbeing helps you to be a better parent.

Taking care of your wellbeing - also called ‘self-care’ - can help you to be more present when you are with your child.

Here’s our self-care tips to get you started. But feel free to come up with your own list!

  • Manage your stress levels by knowing your limits and learning to say ‘no’ to extra work or responsibilities
  • Try to find a work-family-life balance that suits you and your family
  • Take care of yourself physically by eating well, getting enough sleep and exercising
  • Take care of yourself emotionally by finding a healthy outlet for your feelings
  • Take time out to recharge, rest or relax eg. take a bath, go for a run, see a friend
  • Spend time with friends or workmates to talk about things other than home life
  • Ask for help and support when you need it
  • It’s ok to spend time alone doing things you enjoy that’s just for you!

Seeking support

It can help to talk through your options with someone who understands.

Here's a list of supports you can check out:

  • GP or Child Health Nurse
  • Talk to family or friends with kids
  • Community Child Health Centre
  • Mothers groups (face to face or online)
  • Go to trusted websites such as: Raising Children Network

It’s the little moments that can make a difference

Feeling overwhelmed at times is natural and lots of people find parenting challenging. Finding time to connect with your child in a meaningful way is hard when you’re under pressure, stressed, tired, unwell or just busy.

This content was last reviewed 04/05/2018

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