When the toils of everyday life creep in, parents can get so bogged down in schedules that the relationship with their children can seem distanced and disconnected.
Busy parents can build up and strengthen those connections by taking a few simple steps such as guiding your children through a bedtime meditation, asking for their opinion, and actively observing your children without stepping in.
Observe Without an Agenda
Parents tend to either ignore their children or become a domineering, controlling force in their day-to-day activities. A parent might guide their child on how to do something the “right” way or take the opposite approach and offer up a congratulatory “Good job!” on any task—completed correctly or not.
Recent studies show that giving too much praise for mundane tasks can lead to narcissistic kids.
Try to watch your child with undivided attention—that means no iPads or smartphones—without stepping in to preach or teach. Your child is learning and you don’t want to impede that process.
This doesn’t mean you have to be a statue. A loving twinkle in your eye helps your child see him or herself in that light too.
Have Your Child Participate in Guided Meditation
Your child can create any magical scenario he or she wants. Ask them, “Imagine your perfect day. Tell me what would happen,” or “If there were no limits to what you could do, be, or have, what would that look like?”
Write down their story. At bedtime, have your child close their eyes while you read the story.
This exercise teaches the brain how to manifest what they want in their life. This guided visualization is powerful for a child because it evokes feelings of elation and joy from the inside. It’s also a great way to send them off into dreamland.
Share Your Family History
The number one predictor of a child’s emotional well-being is whether or not they know their family history, says Bruce Feiler in his book The Secrets of Happy Families: Improve Your Mornings, Rethink Family Dinner, Fight Smarter, Go Out and Play, and Much More. Knowing one’s family history created a “greater belief that they could control their world and a higher degree of self-confidence,” Feiler says.
Sharing your family history shouldn’t gloss over difficult or painful times either. It’s essential to be transparent; include stories about hard times, challenges, and the lessons you or other family members have learned as a result.
Ask for Their Opinion
Ask your child what activity he or she would like to do with you instead of planning a camping trip or something that you think is ideal. You may both have the same vision, but be open to it being something like playing video games together or building a fort.
Try to cultivate a beginner’s mind or a child-like curiosity in your child’s interests. You don’t have to love it, but try and see what they like about it.
When you do ask their opinion:
- Be flexible.
- Ask what they need more of from you. “How do you think Mommy or Daddy can be better?” is one way to ask.
- Ask for honesty.
- They may not have an answer, but they may have some good pointers. Requests could be as simple as “more snuggles” or “play with me more.”
- Take heed. Our children can help us become better parents, if we only humble ourselves enough to ask, listen, and follow through.
Asking for your child’s opinion doesn’t give him or her too much to power. Instead, it helps your children trust themselves and shows them that their opinion is respected and appreciated.
Provide a Safe Unconditionally Loving Space
Whether or not you think your child knows they’re loved unconditionally, make sure to communicate those thoughts. When children are assured that love is unconditional, it brings about a feeling of relief.
For example, you could say, “No matter how upset I ever get, there is nothing you can ever do to make me stop loving you. I love you unconditionally and nothing will ever change that.”
Constantly looking for approval from parents can be draining (for both parent and child). Instead, encourage them do the best they can for themselves, with no need for approval from others. Explain how doing your best makes you feel good from the inside out. They will soon learn that they can affect their own emotional state. Saying the above statement also teaches them to love themselves unconditionally too.
The deep loving bond and connection you have with your child is—and always will be—there. It’s up to us as parents to just remove the ‘stuff’ getting in the way. More often than not, it’s our egos.