Parent-child connection is valuable for healthy all-around childhood development. A sense of connection makes children feel loved and secure, and there are more confident in themselves and their ability to explore the world, try and learn new things, and manage challenging moments and big feelings. A sense of connection grows when children feel that their parents are present, engaging, loving, and consistent.
Living in a constantly changing and the busy world can hinder the parent-child connection. Both parents and children are increasingly distracted by their busy schedules. We live in a world that encourages being active and doing many things. Our careers, technology, social media, and fear of missing out leave many of us chasing never-ending and exhausting to-do lists. We’ve fallen for the idea that being busy and doing lots will make us more prosperous, secure, meaningful, and happier. As counterintuitive as it may sound, slowing down and making genuine moments of connection is a far healthier way of achieving the same objectives.
Parents and their children need to find ways to slow down and connect in the here and now.
To achieve this, parents need to take the lead. It starts with parents making the time to slow down and be present with their children (without all the distractions and rushing). Children learn from what they see, and we’ve been setting the example that a busy life is good.
Parents are also the ones who set the pace of their children’s lives. Many parents worry that if their children don’t try and do everything, they might not make it in the future. This has resulted in many young peoples’ lives becoming over-scheduled and physically and emotionally exhausting. Many families spend whole weeks not spending any time together. The result is that children are being raised by themselves, strangers and screens, and parents are not getting to know and support their children.
This also includes the time we spend on our devices and with technology. Many parents complain that young people are becoming ‘addicted’ to technology. However, we must ask ourselves how much time we spend on our devices. And what role are we playing in allowing our children access to this technology? It’s evident that screens are physical, social, and emotional and can be barriers to genuine connection. These barriers need to be carefully managed by parents (no matter how hard it is or angry it makes our children). It’s important to remember that parenting is not a popularity contest.
Instead, parents should create (scheduling) moments of ‘nothingness’ for themselves and their children and for them and their children to enjoy together. These moments are restorative and reflective and become opportunities to connect with oneself and the essential people around you. We start to learn about ourselves and others when there are no distractions. Being bored is also a great way to stimulate curiosity, creative thinking, and personal growth.
Parents can also create moments of connection by setting out to do specific, focused tasks or activities with their children where there are no other distractions. This can include reading, talking, free playing, being outdoors or in nature, and doing a craft together. These activities should leave children feeling that they have their parent’s full attention and interest.
For the future, parents must take the time to slow down and be present in the here and now. These moments don’t need to be big, over-complicated or overthought, but they need to be focused, intentional and full of caring. Moments like these leave children feeling loved and secure, which will significantly impact who they are in the future.
Paul Bushell is a psychologist, author and podcaster. His latest book, #raisingMINDFULkids, is a beautiful, practical and inspiring way for adults and children to explore and develop various mindfulness techniques mutually. The book includes over 80 activities designed to be simple, hands-on and fun. There is no right or wrong way of doing this book. Instead, adults are encouraged to keep it handy as a resource for inspiration, growth and ongoing practice. This is an excellent resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and anyone lucky enough to have special children in their life.