How Do I Bond With My Child? (Episode 167)
It is here - our first of the "Ask Me Anything" podcasts! This week we address the question, "How do I bond with my child?" as well as share some quick advice for people dealing with quarantine and/or small spaces at this time.
How do I bond with my Child?
First, I meet them where they are, and second, I pay attention to the things not said.
Ask Us Anything
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When Nathan and I were trying to figure out the best schooling option for our three girls, I asked my friends and sought the guidance of parents who have already made those decisions for their kids.
When it was time to potty train, decide how to handle the holidays with extended family, combat mama overwhelm, develop a new level of connection with my husband, figure out how to go on the road full-time with my family ... and the list goes on and on ... I ask.
So that's why I'm starting a new segment on my podcast once a month. I'm calling it "Ask Us Anything."
The first podcast of each month will be answering your direct questions. So, Ask Us Anything! If we don't know the answer, we'll help you figure it out.
And, to sweeten the pot just a little bit... If you submit a question, I'll send you a free Guided Meditation that's perfect for Mamas like us (and great for the whole family!)
PLUS, if we choose your question to answer on the podcast, you get the chance to win a Family Profile Four-Pack (four personality snapshots to help your family understand each other better).
How Do I bond With My Child?
This week's question is the first edition of our "Ask Me Anything" series, which will be the first podcast of the month.
Our winner is Elicia, who shared this question in our Unschooling Families Facebook community:
"I’m having a hard time bonding with my child who is very different than me. He is 5 yrs old, extremely strong willed, independent, and only likes imaginative play with destruction of tornados, Hurricane, earthquakes, or people doing the wrong thing and needing to go to jail. I’m not having fun being dictated to 24/7 in how he wants all his imaginative play to go. It’s draining. Anything I suggest, I get a, “no.” Can anyone give me advice for bonding? I really want to work on our relationship to make it stronger. I suggest walks, art, games, activities and he’d rather create scenarios that he fully directs. I try to add to his story line and mostly I get, “no I don’t want it that way.”
So, let's dig in to what bonding really is!
Bonding Vs. Secure Attachment Bonding
In this article from HelpGuide, it lays out the difference between basic bonding and the secure attachment bonding. The biggest thing that differentiates these is going from simply doing bonding things together to connecting on a deeper level. Bonding can be very task-focused, like doing a project together, going on a walk, or creating something together. Secure attachment bonding relies a ton on non-verbal cues.
Pay attention to these cues when you are looking to bond and connect with your child:
- Eye Contact
- Facial Expression
- Tone of Voice
- Body Language
- Pacing, Timing and Intensity
It's not just about what you are doing together. Are you really, truly, fully present? Can they sense it? The biggest way to bond has little to do with the action and so so much to do with the connection.
What I love is the reminder throughout the article that this is something you can cultivate and foster at any point. While yes, we want to have a secure attachment bond with our children, we have the chance to try with a clean slate every day to continue and create it:
Repair of the secure attachment bond is always possible
You don’t have to be a perfect parent to build a secure attachment bond with your infant—no one is able to be fully present and attentive to a child 24 hours a day. Because the brain is capable of changing, repair is always possible and may even strengthen the secure attachment bond.
If you notice there’s a disconnect between you, when you’ve missed or misinterpreted your child’s cues, and attempt to repair it by continuing to figure out what your child needs, the secure attachment process will stay on track. The effort involved in repair can even deepen trust, increase resiliency, and build a stronger relationship.
Invite them to your world
It can be hard when your child's interests are completely different than your own!
Here is what I wrote back as a quick response to Elicia, our listener who submitted this question:
There are two sides to this - the first one is looking at give-and-take - helping your son learn more about playing beyond just what HE wants to do and looking for activities to play together. To be honest, I don't typically do imaginative play with toys with my kids - it's not something that excites me to the level it does them, and there are plenty of other ways to connect. So we do a lot of what else you suggest here. Your son may not be keen on doing this at first, but the more you can open the door to him connecting with you on mutual grounds vs. trying to just live in his world, the more you two may find connection, as well as helping him to see that it's not just about his world; there is a lot more out there he has yet to discover, and you're willing to show it to him.
Going to a deeper "why"
Sometimes, however, you have a child that just won't budge. They don't care to play with you in any way but just one laser focus. If you have a child with tunnel vision, look at what may be the reason behind it.
As I addressed Elicia's question, she shared concern over his focus on aggressive/destructive play. I shared this:
The second part of this is really addressing where his focus is coming from, and if his fixation with things going wrong is a coping mechanism he's navigating because of all the craziness going on around him right now. It may also be a great opportunity to just discuss with him WHY he's fascinated with things going wrong - it may be just innocent play...or how he's navigating resolution with unknowns. With weather exploding all over and a lot of things out of his control, pay attention to how much he's soaking in the news and focused on that as well.
I hope this helps with just pulling back and assessing where he's coming from first before you look at how to best connect. The more we can really learn about they deeper why behind the actions, the better we can connect.
The Rest of the story...
Now, there is more to the story. Elecia's very next statement verified that getting to the "why" can be very important if you want to bond!
Thank you. I’m really trying. I feel since my husband and I took away TV until weekends, he’s been wanting to find other things to do and seems more interested to engage with me more and be a bit more flexible. It could also be that he’s maturing a bit more. I accept who he is, I’d just like him to meet me halfway so we can enjoy each others company more. I obviously love him and want to make our relationship stronger and am willing to listen to him!
Key element here...I have found time and time again that the more TV, the more aggression I see. If your child is fixating on destructive/aggressive play, first and foremost, look at how much time they are spending on screens.
When you live your life as a bystander watching others on a screen, it's only natural that your body needs to compensate for the one-sided approach and take a more aggressive stance to get the physical energy out!
Some resources to dig deeper...
- Namaste – On Truly Hearing Each Other (Episode 149)
- The Steps For Emotional Resilience (Episode 150)
- Self-Love, or Self-Sabotage? (Episode 152)
- Juliet Talks Feelings: Wisdom From A 7-year-old (Episode 165)
- 7 Seconds will change your communication and connection (Episode 62)
- What we have here is a failure to communicate!
- How Do I Talk To My Kids? And Beyond (Episode 161)
- It’s Not About The Strawberry Ice Cream (Episode 162)
- The Secret of Listening Well (Episode 163)
- What is Secure Attachment and Bonding (HelpGuide article)
Your Weekly Challenge:
Think of some specific activities you can do with your kids to bond. Think about what they may love, like playing tag or Legos. Think about what would be a family thing to do together, like taking a hike or bike ride. And then also consider your own interests. I've had a lot of fun doing henna and cross-stitch with my girls - both things that were hobbies of mine, not theirs.
Remember the importance of the non-verbal connection, and make sure you are paying attention to those cues - not only in your child, but what signals you may be sending off yourself.
And remember, we won't always get it right all the time. We'll be distracted, we'll even get bored, and that's okay. Keep trying. Keep connecting. It won't be a Hallmark moment every time, but those moments where it "zings" is completely worth it.
The uniqueness in each of us strengthens all of us! Namaste.