Written by Caroline Meyer
We all want our children to be the best they can be. We want them to grow up and happy and healthy. This includes their mental health and stability. A positive parent-child relationship from an early age helps a child develop in a good way. They can feel safe and secure and know they are loved. Even from very young, the responses to laughing, crying and other signals are the cornerstones of emotional development for little ones. The parent-child relationship has an effect on all aspects of early childhood development.
A positive parent-child relationship requires that a parent (preferably both parents) spend time with their children and actively participate. Running around kicking a ball with your child for 10mins outweighs an hour of sitting on the couch watching TV together. Create an environment of respect and trust where your child can feel loved and safe. There is no perfect formula and just like any relationship, the one with your child takes work. There will be many up and downs but remaining positive and never giving up on improving your relationship with your child will let your child know they are loved.
Paying attention to your child and being in the moment helps your child feel that you care about the things that are important to them which helps improve your parent-child bond. There are ways of doing this in a positive way without stifling your child’s imagination and creativity. When you play together, at this age, you don’t have to insist on the play being “right”. Games needing rules to play should be left for when they are older. Let them decide how to play with the toys and other items in a creative way. Join in with the creative play and play along. Get involved in their imaginative play. Ask questions and let them explain to you how things work. Let them talk to you about their play as well as what happened during the day. It might take a while, but you may better understand your toddler as well. It may also help you figure out what is going on in their lives and how they see things. This could be important especially if there are behaviour changes which could relate to things that are happening outside of the home. Be loving and supportive and offer hugs and comfort whenever it is needed.
Let your child decide what to play and then get involved with instead of always deciding what they should play with and when. When they get older, you can even allow bigger decisions such as what to wear and what to have for dinner. This also build self-esteem and lets them know that they are valued. If they are wanting to talk about how they feel, listen and draw them out to understand them better. They may not always be able to express their emotions, but you can try and get a good idea and react accordingly. Make eye contact with your child and display appropriate facial expressions so they know that you are paying attention while you spend time together. This helps build confidence in your child and a better bond between you.
Make sure to plan one-on-one time with your children. Group play is great and your children will most likely gain a lot from joint play but some solo time is needed to focus on each child as an individual. No two children are the same and each will have their own needs. Some will need more time with you than others. You will have to assess how best to split your time, without neglecting the needs of each child. This type of attention helps toddlers build self-confidence, language and much more. Help your child feel secure and important. Be available to your child when they need it. While you may not be available 24/7, there are times when mum and dad are the only ones that can “fix” things. Pick them up when they fall over. Comfort them when they cry. Get to know your little person and cherish their individual personalities. Be positive and nurture their interests and be prepared to give them some “hands off” time as well to be themselves, play with their friends and grow on their own as well.
The relationship will change as your little one gets older and continue to change throughout life. Being consistent and offering support along with boundaries and guidelines will help your child throughout their whole lives. Allow the relationship to evolve and change as it needs to and you will certainly have a good relationship with your children for years to come.