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Cultivating A Relationship With Your Child

How can I help my child . . .

  • How can I create a positive relationship with my child?
  • How does having a positive relationship with my child affect them?
  • What can I do when my relationship with my child is strained?

Parenting is one of the most important and rewarding roles that an adult may have.  There are many ups and downs and with the stress of modern life it can be difficult to stay present for the special moments that arise with your child. Tuning into your child and making an effort to build a positive relationship with them will not only bring more joy to parenting, but will also set your child up for success in the future. 

There is no right way to cultivate a positive relationship with your child.  However, if your connection is mostly based on mutual care, support and warmth then your child will likely grow up feeling loved and secure. Building this relationship does not require a lot of time, but it does take some effort and awareness.  Simply being fully present when you are with your child and listening to their feelings, stories and opinions can go a long way in creating this sense of connection and belonging. 

In addition, taking time to note and tune into what your child is doing and what they are interested in will demonstrate to them that you value who they are and what they like.  This can help children feel that they matter and can also strengthen the bond between a child and their caregiver.

Why it Matters

The close relationships that children have in their life help them develop their sense of the world.  When they experience love, care and support from the caregivers in their life, they grow up feeling more secure and believe that the world is generally  a safe place. When parents spend quality time with their children, they also have opportunities to learn about who they are, what they are interested in and what is going on in their lives. In this way, they can guide them and find ways to help them focus on their interests.  

It is also shown that a strong parent-child relationship has benefits that are less immediate.  For example, children who have are securely attached to their parent tend to:

  • have more positive relationships in their life
  • regulate their emotions more easily
  • be more optimistic and confident
  • have better social and academic skills
  • have stronger problem solving skills

By setting this foundation in the elementary school years and maintaining  it through the years to come, you will be setting your child up for a deeper connection with you as they grow older.  They will also be more likely to succeed academically, socially and emotionally.

Check In:

As mentioned above, there are no clear cut rules for how to create a positive relationship with your child.  However, there are some basic things that can be done on a regular basis to help create connection and make your child feel loved.  Look at the checklist below and think about how often you do these things.  For the ones you mark “never” try to make a point of incorporating those into your daily life.

Say “I Love You”   
Listen and empathize   
Allow and validate their emotions   
Be available when they need support   
Eat meals together   
Listen to their opinions   
Allow them to make choices   
Give them some undivided attention each day   
Set clear boundaries, rules and consequences   
Support your child’s ideas   
Hug or cuddle with your child each day   
Apologize and make amends when you have done something to break your bond (yelling, scolding, etc)   
Keep your promises   

Connect & Communicate:

The checklist above is a great place to start to establish a good relationship with your child.  In addition to that, the following activities will also help to maintain that connection. 

Play together:  Let your child take the lead on what you play and how.  This gives them a sense of ownership and also shows them they matter.

  • Play these games to strengthen emotional intelligence
  • Some ideas for play with autistic children
  • Some ideas for play and friendship for children with disabilities

Create parent-child rituals and traditions:  This might be as simple as a movie night every week.  It can also include the whole family, or just one parent.  For example, they may have “date night” with each parent individually each month.

Spend quality time together:  This might only be ten minutes a day, but giving your child your full attention on a regular basis is key to having a healthy relationship.  Make sure to have your phone out of sight and take this time to connect.

Repairing the Relationship

There will always be times when you or your child will have done something that strains the relationship.  In these moments, it is important to discuss the issue and make amends.  Saying you are sorry or talking about what they have done will not only model how to solve conflict positively but will also give your child that sense that you love and care about them. For more information on this you can see the following resources:

4 Ways to Resolving Conflict with Your Kid

Family Conflict is Normal, It’s the Repair that Matters

How to Mend a Broken Relationship with Your Child

How to Repair a Relationship with Your Child When You Blow It

Contact & Collaborate:

Your child’s school will likely have some ideas and resources for helping you with any child-parent challenges that come up.  You may also want to look into ideas for supporting your child’s school success because that will also help strengthen your relationship.  In addition to your child’s school, here are some other places you may look:

  • Your child’s pediatrician may have some ideas
  • Parent podcasts and blogs
  • Counselors or coaches that help parents work with their children
  • Love and Logic Parenting Classes.  You can find a class in your area.
  • Free Positive Parenting Class from Generation Mindful
  • Online Parenting Classes

If you feel that you or your child may need professional help, seek out a therapist or psychologist in your area.  You may need to shop around a bit to find a good match, so be patient.  Ask other parents, teachers or doctors for referrals.

Continue Learning:

Raising Children (video):  Special Moments with Children.  Parents talk about their special moments with children:

Mom Junction (website):  Types of Parent-Child Relationships

Parents Tip of the Day (podcast)  8 Ways to Strengthen Your Parent-Child Relationship

Meganne is Not a Parent, but….(podcast):  The Parent-Child Relationship

Connected Families (website)  52 Out-of-the-box Family Bonding Activities

Youth Dynamics (website)  Five Minute Parent Child Bonding Activities

Simply Well Balanced (website)  50 Simple Parent-Child Bonding Games

Raising Children (website) Parent Relationships: Children with disability, autism and other additional needs

Friendship Circle (website)  Five Ways a Father Can Bond with His Special Needs Child

Autism Help (website)  Family Bonding with Child

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