Successful parenting requires a strong emotional connection with your child. When you are emotionally connected, they know that you love and care for them, which helps them to feel secure and confident.
We are all in the same boat; all doing our best in trying circumstances. It is hard to play dual roles. You may rock your role as mum, but the boundaries get blurry once you add teaching, and relationships can become more complex. However, there are a few straightforward strategies you can use to help repair your connection with your children and improve cooperation.
Connection is the only reason children willingly follow our rules. Kids who feel strongly connected to their parents WANT to cooperate.
Research suggests that we need five positive interactions to every negative interaction to keep any relationship healthy. And since we spend so much time correcting, reminding, scolding, criticising, nagging, and yelling (especially when homeschooling), it’s important to spend time proactively building a positive connection.
7 Ways to Increase Emotional Connection
The best way to keep a strong relationship with our children is to establish simple daily habits of connection.
1. Physical connection.
Start the day with a long cuddle. While homeschooling, pat their back, rub their shoulders, show them you can see they are working hard throughout the day. Praise their effort with a well done, funny dance or a high-five. Make eye contact and smile. Put them in bed a little bit earlier so you can finish the day with another long cuddle.
Laughter keeps you connected with your child by stimulating endorphins and oxytocin in both of you. Making laughter a daily habit gives your child a chance to laugh out anxieties and upsets that otherwise make him feel disconnected and more likely to act out. For example, a good time to laugh is when your child makes a mistake in their work. Take the pressure off by being a bit silly.
3. Turn off technology when you interact with your child.
This is hard since we need to be connected to work from home, but once the work is done, turn off the devices and give your child your full attention. This will help your child know she is important.
4. Connect before transitions.
Kids have a hard time transitioning from one thing to another. They need us to “co-regulate” them through those moments when they don’t want to give up what they’re doing to move onto something we want them to do. When you need them to switch from doing something they want, to something you need them to do, look them in the eye, use their name, connect with them by acknowledging how hard it is to stop what they are doing to do something else. Being silly and laughing might help too.
5. Make time for one-on-one interaction.
Schedule 15 minutes with each child, separately, every day. This can be as simple as talking and snuggling before bed, or it can be a time when you follow your child’s lead and do whatever they want, such as play a game, bake, read a book or build blocks. For example, my kids love playing “Would you rather”. It always starts with very simple questions like “Would you rather have a lollipop or a cupcake?”, but often ends with deep-thinking ones like “Would you rather have no money, but have a family; or have all the money in the world, but have no family?” You will be surprised with the questions they can come up with, and the answers can be heart melting.
6. Welcome emotion.
Acknowledge all feelings and offer your understanding. This creates safety so they can move through those emotions and back into connection. Regulating our own emotions in the face of our child’s anger is one of the most complex parts of parenting. Stay calm and patient in the face of their emotion if you want the more vulnerable feelings to surface.
7. Listen and Empathise.
Connection starts with listening. Seeing things from your child’s perspective will ensure that you treat them with respect and look for win/win solutions. When we stop to listen, we might understand the reasons for their behaviour and solve the root problem.
As a psychologist, I have seen firsthand how children thrive when they feel emotionally connected to their parents. It was so inspiring to see the parents who were able to maintain a strong bond with their children despite having busy jobs or other responsibilities that would typically interfere with such closeness.
You can use the Active Listener Game printable to reconnect with your child in a fun and light-hearted way.