Bonding with your child is one of the most important aspects of parenting.
Forming an emotional attachment and connection to your child gives them a sense of belonging and security. It also helps to encourage healthy self-worth and self-esteem.
Babies bond through touch and skin-to-skin contact, eye contact, imitating facial expressions and gestures, and communication through vocalising.
As children grow and develop, bonding also grows and develops. Spending one-on-one time with your child, role-modelling, teaching and encouraging their learning, as well as taking an interest in them and their activities, helps to cement the parent/child ties for life.
Mealtimes can be great opportunity for your family unit (and extended family) to bond. Sitting down to an evening meal in particular, can give children a chance to interact and be heard without the early morning rush to get out the door for school. Eating together can give a family unit the chance to set tables, prepare, cook and try new foods, and practise communication skills.
Taking time out to listen to your child helps create a respectful relationship. A child who is listened to is more likely to listen in return. Children often don’t want to talk about school or friendships or what’s happening in their world when asked by a parent or carer, so make the most of the times when they do want to talk, or find quiet times together just for a chat. You might not get the whole story all at once, but informal, frequent chats can keep you in the loop.
Board games, card games, parlour games and silly games can be fun. Most kids love nothing better than to see a parent being silly or looking ridiculous in a costume or, thrill of all thrills, losing a game to them!! Developing a sense of humour, fair play and the ability to lose gracefully, can all happen naturally at a games night.
Where possible demonstrate your support by helping out in the classroom, at the school canteen or on a preschool weekend working bee. If you’re working full-time, maybe you’re available to volunteer at your child’s sports club at weekends or turn up to watch the game. Where possible, debrief after the game over a hot chocolate or other special treat.
Most kids love celebrations. Birthdays can be an ideal time to be the centre of attention, regardless of whether the entire extended family is present, or there’s just the two of you. Create family traditions, make a fuss, encourage your children to invite some friends over and enjoy partying together.
Choose a movie you’d both like to see and spend time laughing or crying together, or being thrilled to the max. If the budget doesn’t extend to petrol, movie tickets, popcorn and drinks, hire a DVD and watch at home instead.
If you’re a working parent, helping your child with homework may be one way to show your support and interest in their schoolwork. It also gives you an opportunity to assess whether they’re coping generally, socially and emotionally. If helping with homework isn’t appropriate for any reason, try reading together.
Pitch in together to get the job done. Be ready to support your child, or coach your child if appropriate. Let them know you’re there for them. Encourage teamwork and communication.
Share stories about your own upbringing. Tell your kids the funny stuff, the mishaps, the mistakes and the situations that taught you things. Share your thoughts, your dreams, or the opportunities you wish you’d taken. Relate stories of your extended family unit, and give your child an idea of who the members were and what they were like.
A big part of growing up is knowing and understanding family values. Every family unit is different, and values need to be shared with children, as values underpin our interaction with others.
If you’re a non-custodial parent, bonding with a child can be more difficult than for a custodial parent depending on access and how much time you spend with the child.