The parent-child relationship can sometimes feel paradoxical because these relationships can be amongst the most fulfilling and joyful, as well the most stressful and frustrating. Despite the ups and downs that parents experience with their children, two ways to help strengthen these relationships and make our connections stronger within our families are time and emotional connectedness.
Spending time with children is one of the best ways to strengthen your relationships with them. This may look differently for all parents due to schedules and cultures, however the more time spent with children, the stronger their relationships will become. Dieter F. Uchtdorf, an apostle from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, teaches that “We build deep and loving family relationships by doing simple things together, like family dinner and family home evening and by just having fun together. In family relationships love is really spelled t-i-m-e, time. Taking time for each other is the key for harmony at home.”1
Ideas for sharing more time together include:
Playing together. Take time to play outside, play games, or find a new activity you enjoy together.
Eating meals together. Not only does eating together give parents and children time to talk and share things about the day, but research has also found that eating meals as a family enhances the health and well-being of adolescents in the long run.2
Being available. Children may need your attention at inconvenient times, however trying to be available to them when they need it can strengthen relationships. Also giving children our full attention when we do have time to spend will make those moments more meaningful and impactful.
Traveling together. Research shows that travel can be a way to “utilize limited family time to help improve communication within a relationship, reduce the possibility of divorce, strengthen lifelong family bonds, and increase a sense of well-being in adults and children.” 3 Traveling does not need to be expensive or glamorous to create memories and stronger connections with children.
Reconnecting after being apart. Reconnecting and being present during transition times (leaving for school, coming home from school, going to bed, etc.) can give children time to talk and connect with you.
Coming together to discuss and learn about spiritual beliefs. Religious and spiritual beliefs can be a very strengthening power between parents and children, and it is important to teach your children your beliefs and morals. Sharing beliefs and rituals can strengthen family relationships.
Spending time with children is essential to strengthening connections between parents and children, but also trying to be emotionally connected and close during that time is important. Some ways to promote emotional connectedness include:
Listen and empathize. Let children share their thoughts and experiences and if they are struggling, show compassion and empathy.
Welcome emotions. Emotions are part of being human and as children are encouraged to share their emotions, it can help parent-child relationships become stronger and also help promote healthy emotional practices throughout the children’s lives. When children are not afraid to be open and honest, communication and love within the family can grow.4
Express love. No matter how old your children are, saying “I love you” helps create an environment of love and expressing emotions.
Cherish moments together. Talking, playing, and laughing with children can all create a happy and emotionally close environment.
Like all relationships, parent-child relationships take work and can sometimes bring unique challenges, but spending time together and becoming emotionally closer can strengthen these special and valuable relationships.