Family

How to connect with your child

Author: Canadian Living

Family

How to connect with your child

At every stage of your child’s development, you and your child are discovering wonderful things about each other. From birth, it's important to form a secure attachment with your child. And as your child grows into the toddler and preschool years, it's equally important to recognize how your child is changing and how you can be in tune with these changes to keep your connection strong and support your child's healthy social, emotional and intellectual development.
 
"Creating a lasting bond with your child takes consistent effort," says Palmina Ioannone, parenting expert at Invest in Kids. "The work begins in infancy and is a labour of love that continues as your child grows."
           
Forming a secure attachment with your infant
At birth, your newborn is dependent on you for everything, but has more capacities and abilities than you'd think. The best way to learn about your baby is to spend lots of time together to learn about temperament and sensitivities.
 
Here are some of the cues your baby might send to get your attention:
• Crying
• Facial expressions, like quivering lips and furrowed eyebrows
• Making or avoiding eye contact
• Gestures, like raising his hands high
 
With these cues, your baby may be signaling that he needs you to soothe him, hold him or feed him. "Even in your daily routines, pay extra-special attention to your child. He'll feel loved and safe," says Ioannone.
 
Ioannone suggests these activities designed to transform your everyday interactions into moments that support your baby’s healthy development.
Hold your baby in a warm embrace and look at him face-to-face as you feed him. Your baby will smile in response to your undivided attention.
Play games like peek-a-boo when diapering or dressing your baby. Your baby will stare in anticipation as he learns you'll reappear, and laugh with joy.
Tell your baby the names of his body parts as you gently wash and dry him. Your baby will gradually be able to respond to your requests to "lift your arms," "point your toes," etc., as he learns his body parts.

Building your attachment is a process that takes caring, patience and time. Understand how important you are to your baby and that your baby forms a secure attachment to you as you respond to his needs and care for him.

The routines and rituals you establish are part of the secure base you provide for your baby. This attachment becomes part of the brain's wiring and sets the basic model for all his future close relationships. Even if interacting with your baby feels awkward at first, remember, these are among the most important ways to build a warm relationship with your child.

Page 1 of 3 -- Discover how to connect with your toddler on page 2
Connecting with your toddler
In the toddler years, you face the challenge of living with a child who is trying to be independent but is still a bit scared. While it might be hard to strike a balance between protecting your child and encouraging his independence, here are some tips to help you better connect with your growing child.

• Listen to your child. Check with your child to see if you understand him. You might say, "I think that you were saying such-and-such. Was that what you meant?" or "I'm confused, because you say you're happy but you look sad."

• Give directions in a positive way.
Children respond better to limits when they feel loved and noticed as part of a warm, caring relationship. For instance, say, "Please close the door quietly" instead of "Don't slam the door!"

• Notice and praise good behaviour.
This can build your child's self-esteem and reduce his need to battle with you all the time.

• Respect your child's feelings by not making fun of her fears or worries. This will help your child better understand how others think and feel.

• Allow your child to take the lead,
especially when playing together. This will show her that you care about and respect her ideas.

• Take a drive and enjoy the closeness of just being together.
Many parents find that a drive in the car, just the two of you, magically opens the door to communication.

Be patient. Sometimes the key is to wait until your child initiates the discussion. When this happens, be ready to drop whatever it is you are doing and seize the opportunity to listen to what your child has to say.
 
Your toddler needs to be able to rely on you and know that you are there when she needs you. A secure child will more eagerly explore the world around her.

Page 2 of 3 -- Find advice on how to bond with your preschooler on page 3
Bonding with your preschooler
These are the years when your child really seems to be enjoying life and is even more fun to be around. He thinks you're pretty terrific and wants to be like you, following you around and copying you. So setting a good example for your child becomes even more important at this age. Try these tips to enrich the bond with your preschooler:
 
• Be a model for good problem solving, negotiating and understanding of others, as well as all the other skills you want your child to have and ways you want your child to behave. Teach and lead instead of using force – but expect what's appropriate for your child's age, not perfection.

• Praise his efforts. Each time he learns a new skill, right from the earliest days, let him know how well he has done.

• Play with your child. When your child plays, he is practicing skills in every area of his development. He thinks, solves problems, talks, moves, cooperates and makes moral judgments. Play helps to get him ready for the real world. Playing with you has the added benefit of cementing your bond.

• Make the time to have a one-to-one talk. Don't try to talk in the middle of family confusion. Find a time and place where the two of you won't be interrupted.

• Don't interrupt when your child is speaking. The better you listen, the more likely you are to respond in a way that is helpful.

• Express your love for your child in words and actions. Knowing he's a good, lovable person is the most important way to build your child's self-esteem. 
 
Young children are consummate imitators, constantly looking to their parents for guidance in how to handle life’s challenges. As the parent of a preschooler, being a model for your child is important. To be an excellent model, parents must know themselves – their emotions, values and beliefs – and how they appear to others in the family, on the job and in their community.


This content was created by the child development and parenting experts who
developed
www.parents2parents.ca. Visit the site to learn more about the ages and stages your young child is experiencing and to share in the parenting journey of other parents just like you.


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