In the course of the human life cycle, several types of relationships are established of different magnitudes and consequences, but the relationship between a parent and a child is probably the most significant in a person’s life. A parent-child relationship which leads to effective parenting is an interaction that nurtures and promotes a child’s physical, emotional and social development. This relationship is unique and lays the foundation for the child’s values and personality and the effects of parent-child bonding or even neglect is long lasting.
A healthy and functional relationship between parents and their children is very vital in every family. Building a good relationship with children starts from birth and continues as the child matures. It starts with the love that parents show their children at birth. There are several ways of building a healthy relationship with parents. Establishing a healthy parent-child relationship requires work and effort.
The relationship between a parent and a child is built in a process called parenting. The quality of a parent-child relationship is determined by the type of parenting involved. Therefore effective parenting leads to parent-child bonding which guarantees a healthier relationship with parents.
Some parents do not care about their relationship with their children and this is enough reason to say they are not concerned about the wellbeing of these children. Parents’ relationship with children has a great to play in their development into adulthood. Some children are emotionally unstable and socially withdrawn as a result of poor relationship with parents.
Importance of building a healthy parent-child relationship
Parents are their children’s first teachers. Children look up to their parents to support them through their experiences. There will be no appropriate transfer of values and proper upbringing if the relationship between parents and their children is unhealthy. Children are the pride and concern of their parents. It is the desire of every parent to be a part of their child’s life and this can only happen when there is a strong parent-child bond. Parents’ day-to-day involvement in the lives of their children lay the foundation for better social and academic skills.
At each developmental stage, children need the support of their parents to be able to overcome the crisis or challenges that accompany the respective stages. Thus, for parents to appropriately assist their children to develop properly, they must have a good relationship with their children. Many children end up doing wrong things not because they love to, but because they were not educated by their parents and so they become victims of peer pressure.
When a healthy parent-child relationship exists between parents and their children, being one of the first relationships the child experiences, there is a greater probability that these children are better at forming and maintaining healthy relationships with others. Children who have a healthy relationship with their parents learn how to regulate their emotions under stressful situations.
Tips for establishing a healthy parent-child relationship
Spend quality time with your children: Time is a very valuable resource worth investing in children. Firstly, the mere act of making out time for someone, already explains how important that person is and how much you value that person. In the same way, when children find their parents carving out time to spend with them, it makes them feel loved and is an evidence of effective parenting. But making time is not just enough, what is of paramount importance is how this time is spent.
Very often some parents claim they have scheduled time to be spent with their children but instead of dedicating their attention to their children during this time, they are merely physically present but mentally absent. Trust me, this is as good as being absent. It’s even more hurting to claim that you made out time for somebody, yet that person doesn’t get your attention. Imagine a child expecting to play, talk and be pampered by his/her mom or dad in the day and at that time only gets a parent who is busy on phone, handling work at home and at the end of the day he/she spends no quality time with parents.
Spending time with your child is not some routine exercise or some compulsory course to be validated. It’s a means of developing intimacy with your child, a means of bonding more, getting to know more about your child, what he/she likes, what new skill he/she has learnt, what experiences they have acquired and what challenges they are facing. Only then will you as a parent be able to recognize your child’s needs and set necessary limits for him/her. Did you know your child is being bullied at school? Did you know your daughter has started menstruating? Did you know your son is taking drugs? Of course you wouldn’t if you don’t spend quality time with them to observe and recognize these changes. Don’t let your child be a stranger to you.
Educate yourself: No need to get frightened; you do not have to enroll in a school to do this. Well, you do need to put in effort to learn about how a child develops and what happens at various ages. This is not so much to ask for the sake of your child’s wellbeing. You can always ask questions from older and more experienced parents. In a technologically advanced world as ours, parents who are technologically vested can always use the Internet to search and upgrade their knowledge on child development. Understanding these general trends of child development will help you know how to relate healthily with your child as a parent. If you don’t know that when a child reaches puberty he/she yearns for independence, becomes curious and adventurous, then you will certainly strain the relationship between you and your child due to use of inappropriate parenting approach. This unfortunate situation can only be prevented by adequate knowledge of child development.
Accept and love your child: He’s your son and she’s your daughter after all. It’s very common that before a child is born, parents have expectations about the child as well as they have feelings concerning the birth of the child. These expectations include aspects such as sex of the baby, physical appearance and the feelings concerning the birth of the child could be feelings of regret, feelings of over excitement, and feelings of long anticipation and so on. No matter the expectations or feelings associated with the birth of your child, learn to accept and love that child.
Just because you wanted a boy and you had a girl doesn’t make the child any less deserving of your love. Even if the child has a disability, there is need to accept the child as he/she is and give your sincere love as a parent. Sometimes people conceive under circumstances such as rape, unwanted pregnancy and when these children are born they are not accepted and loved as they should. Irrespective of the circumstances, your child remains your child; accept and love him/her.
Most times, parents are disgruntled with children who possess certain traits and tend to neglect or ignore them. But it is the duty of parents to mold and direct their children to the right path. Thus, instead of pushing him/her away, accept, love and do all you can to help him/her become a better person. Your parenting role will only become successful when you draw him/her closer, and establish a good relationship with him/her. It’s impossible for a healthy relationship to be formed between a parent and a child when the parent doesn’t give love and acceptance since there will be no possibility of parent-child bonding.
Enforce good communication: There’s no relationship without communication and the quality of communication will determine the quality and intensity of the relationship. Communication is a two-way traffic of talking and listening, which are necessary activities for all parties involved in a communication niche. That is, talking shouldn’t be meant only for a particular party and the other party involved subjected solely to listening. In the same way, for a healthy relationship with parents to exist, parents shouldn’t do all the talking, while children just listen.
There’s no argument that parents are more mature and experienced and therefore are responsible for directing and guiding children. Yet we can’t cancel the fact that children are human beings as well with emotions, opinions, perspectives, and ideas. And these must all be considered in the parent-child relationship. The only way to know what your children think, feel, and belief is by listening to them as parents. Not just listening but actively listening to them.
Be reminded that children are not robots that you can just push about with a remote control, they are humans and you need to help them understand why they should act in a particular way. Some children can barely look at their parents in the face; talk less of talking to their parents. Why scare your children? Immediately you come in, they all disappear into their rooms, in your presence, there is complete silence as no one is allowed or feels free to talk; and you think they respect you. They don’t respect you, they are afraid of you. You can be friendly with your children, yet earn maximum respect. They have worries but can’t open up to you, they can’t confide in you and so they settle for help and wrong advice from others. Be a better parent by ensuring good communication with your children which is a necessity for building a healthy parent-child relationship.
Get involved in your children’s lives: Yes, they are your children but they have their own lives; their own interests, experiences and aspirations. One way to establish a healthy parent-child relationship is by getting involved in your child’s life. Follow him to his school games, help her rehearse for her role play, teach them their school poems and rhymes, and discuss their aspirations and provide them resources to navigate their aspiration pathways. It is also important for you as a parent to find out the kind of company your child keeps and get to know them well.
Be exemplary: Children look up to their parents as their role models. Their parents to them are their pride. How do you expect your child to bond with you when you come home drunk and wasted in alcohol, or when you beat up your wife or insult your husband always? Every parent must be well behaved and decent so that their children can bond with them and establish a good parent-child relationship.
Children will not want to identify with their parents when they believe they have a negative reputation. For instance, if a child’s drunken father is the subject of ridicule amongst his peers, he wouldn’t be happy with the embarrassment he has to go through because of his father and this can only result to a drift in the relationship between father and child.
Appreciate and motivate your children: Everyone needs to be appreciated for doing something good. As parents and adults, we expect approval and acknowledgement from our bosses, our clients, our family members and relatives and from all those who witness our accomplishments. Children are not different; they also deserve approval and acknowledgement from the most important people in their lives, their parents. Just a word of congratulations or praise from a parent to a child is very satisfying and brings a lot of joy to the child. When children are being appreciated and motivated by their parents, it gives them a sense of worth and draws them closer to their parents.
It is true that children have duties and responsibilities in the home and to their parents. But it doesn’t mean good work shouldn’t be appreciated. For instance, if your daughter washes the dishes very clean and on time, it’s no crime praising her and even giving her a little reward.
Be responsive to children’s needs: One vital ingredient in every relationship is trust. As parents your children need to know that they can count on you, they can depend on your support at anytime, they can turn to you when they need help or comfort. Some parents are never there when their children need their help, they make promises to their children, which they never fulfill, they are more concerned about the impression of people than about how their children feel. Some parents are so inconsistent with their children and so at a certain point in time, their children are not sure of what to expect of them.
Stay honest to your children:As a parent, lying to your children only makes them trust you less when they discover the truth. It is wrong to manipulate your child to act in a particular way to suit your interest. In case of a situation, explain to your child the issue, seek his/her opinion, and then give your advice and the reason why you expect a particular reaction. No healthy relationship can be formed in an environment of lies. When children know that their parents will always be true to them no matter what, it sets the platform for a healthy parent-child relationship.
Set rules, regulations and boundaries: As a parent, acceptable standards of behavior should be made known to your children. It is good to always remind children of the stated rules, regulations and boundaries in their interaction. This will help avoid unnecessary conflict and argument between you and them. When children know what is expected of them, it is easier for them to act in conformity and thus eradicate any chances of conflict setting in and straining the parent-child relationship. This is indeed one of the key characteristic of effective parenting.
Be realistic and understanding: Most often, some parents tend to play “perfect” with their children but this is not helpful. All couples before becoming parents were children and have experienced childhood and it’s characteristics. However, as parents they tend to see those attributes in their children as strange and unheard of. Denying that certain things are real only strains the relationship between parents and their children. Especially at adolescence, children tend to perceive their perspectives to be different from those of their parents because of the generational gap. So if you must understand your adolescent child and relate healthily, it is very important that you go down to their level. This doesn’t mean accepting everything your children demand from you, or becoming naïve as they may be but it simply means making them feel that you understand what they are experiencing and suggest responsible ways for them to handle the said situation.
It is normal that children experience challenges in their lives for instance, if your child performs poorly, it doesn’t make him or her a failure. In such a situation, scolding, insulting and humiliating the child is not the solution, as it only pushes them further away, straining one’s relationship with children. You may scold him or her for laziness, but don’t fail to encourage and emphasize his or her chances of improving. With such a reaction, the child feels love, feels empowered and develops motivation to work harder while maintaining a positive relationship with parents.
Make your children your priority: In recent times, parents have become more buried in their career and made it their priority. Many parents leave for work very early and only return late at night when their children are asleep. They don’t get to spend time with their children and get involved in their issues. Many career women have ignored their parent-child bonding and left their children to establish bonds with care givers such as nannies and home servants. Nothing should replace your children bond with you, not even your job.
Develop special traditions and be creative: As mentioned earlier, establishing a healthy relationship with your child requires some effort. You’ve got to put some life and spice into it. The truth is not only romantic relationships require this. Even in parent-child relationships there is need for creativity. Sometimes take your children on leisure trips, tell them bed time stories, buy them little special gifts, and play with them. All these elements create a lot of sentimental attachment between you and your child.
Trust your children: Not only do parents need to gain the trust of their children; they must also be able to trust their children. As a parent you must hold on to your efforts in effective parenting and trust that your children will not disgrace or let you down. When children feel that they are trusted by their parents, they strive to protect this trust from being lost. For instance, at adolescence when children crave for some level of independence, completely denying them that will only make them feel frustrated and left out. Give them opportunities to show you that they have inculcated all that you taught them. It’s not about letting them loose but giving them the opportunity to exercise some control over their lives and activities.
Maintain a conducive home environment: The environment has a great influence on parent-child relationships. When there is a lot of bitterness in the family, poverty or instability, they are bound to affect parent-child bonding. When a child is exposed to scenarios of fighting and quarreling between parents, it scares the child and puts constraints on the parents’ relationship with children.
Moreover, no child will have a good relationship with his father who beats up his mother frequently, likewise no child will appreciate his or her mother humiliating and insulting her father all the time.
Do not abuse your children: Child abuse is a contemporary issue that accounts for unhealthy parent-child relationships. Child abuse in this case refers to several situations. Parents who constantly inflict physical pain on their children are distancing themselves from their children. Also due to high levels of immorality, some parents have established erotic relationships with their children and this practice is absolutely unhealthy. Children’s relationship with their parents is based on natural love and when erotic feelings are introduced, it becomes a taboo, a disgusting and unacceptable relationship.
That is why there are some practices that should be avoided. At certain ages, parents should not dress in front of their children; neither should they share the same bed.
The parent-child relationship is salient in human existence. It has serious effects and consequences depending on the type of relationship established. Building the parent-child relationship to be healthy is highly dependent on the parents especially from a very early stage. A healthy parent-child relationship is not established in a day, it takes time and effort to build such. Many parents and children do not have a good relationship but there is still time to mend and improve their relationship as parents and children. This also goes for those who just had children or look forward to having children. As you plan for a blissful family, you must be aware of the strategies and things you must do to make your relationship with children healthy and happy. The parent-child bond is an irreplaceable and delicate bond which if nurtured properly is profitable for the development of both parents and their children.