Communication, Connection, & Trust
Down time – whether it be school breaks or weekends – is a great opportunity to deepen connections with your kids and practice positive communication strategies that lead to long-term trust. Let’s discuss some important tips and factors that influence bonding between parents and children.
Communication Is Key
One of the biggest concerns I hear from parents is “How can I connect with my child?” My response is usually in the form of a question: “How do you communicate with them?” Communication is a major key to building a connection. Our tiny daily interactions lay the foundation for a lifelong bond that is rooted in mutual trust. So, in no particular order, here are some tips to consider when communicating with your children:
- Make a conscious effort to understand their world. It’s different from the one you grew up in, and while there are some core similarities, there are also some critical differences. Recognizing these will allow you to build a bond. Learn who they are and what’s important to them without trying to project your own life experiences onto theirs.
- Be available. Take time to shut down your phone, take a break from work, and leave the laundry for later. Give yourself time to be together with your child, for the opportunity to talk. Show up for them, so they know you will always be there. Make active and visible attempts to create space for them in your life and let them know that this space is theirs, if they need it.
- Support unconditionally. This doesn’t mean not having consequences for negative actions; this means providing training, help, hugs, and understanding when things don’t work out or go the way you or they planned. Provide support with no judgement, shame, or blame.
These three actions are the building blocks of trust between parent and child that grows gradually over time. The end goal is to help your child feel comfortable coming to you with their problems and allow you to believe in them making the right choices.
The Impact of Age
Trust and connection slowly take shape by intentional communication as children age. The older they get, the less control we have over their lives, and our interaction with them should reflect this dynamic.
When they’re babies, we have 100% say over their daily lives, and they truly need us there 24/7. If you think of their life as a plane – you are the pilot, and they are the cabin passenger during this time. As children get older, they start to learn independence; they peek into the flight deck and eventually take the co-pilot’s seat. The relationship at this stage should become more collaborative in order for a connection to be built. Trust them to make mistakes and encourage them to share them with you by being non-judgmental. Before long, they will be the main pilot of their plane with you (hopefully) relaxing in first class.
A Bit About Technology
And of course, a conversation about communication is incomplete without mention of technology these days. It’s important to note that tech can sometimes provide an excellent medium for connection and shared activities. Some feelings can be easier to relay through text – just remember that tone isn’t always accurate in writing, and you may need to help kids understand this also. As our children get engaged in some new game or gadget, we can actually use this as an opportunity to bond and pay attention to their interests.
However, technology can also act as a barrier between family members, so positive modeling and setting clear expectations about tech use is crucial. (Yes, it’s not just about telling kids to put down the tablet at dinner time – it’s also about putting your own phone away!)
All in all, the benefit to good communication is having a connection and building trust with your children as they grow. Connections provide feelings of belonging and being significant in the world. It increases happiness, supports health, and encourages positivity. (Speaking of communication and building trust, check out Dr. Christina’s tips for helping your child feel prepared for medical emergencies, here!)