Connecting with your children is important for many reasons. Positive interactions can help balance out negative encounters. Your child may be experiencing a big transition and need extra support, like starting school or daycare. You may feel like your child is growing up, developing their own identity away from the family, and you’re wondering how to stay connected. You might be pregnant and desire to bond with your new baby. Read on for various ways to connect with your kids from pregnancy to adolescence.
For first time moms, bonding with their new baby may feel strange since you haven’t met them yet. However, when your baby is born, they know your voice, smell, and touch. Some ideas for you or your partner to connect with your new baby while you are pregnant include:
- Singing lullabies to your baby.
- Rub your belly–try this in response to wherever your baby kicks!
- Play music for your baby. This could include kids’ music, your favorite music, or classical music.
- Read books and stories to your baby. Reading out loud by you and your partner can facilitate bonding and help your baby get to know your voices.
- Talk to your baby. If you have a name picked out you can use their name. Tell them you love them in a calm and caring voice.
Bonding and connecting with your baby after they are born promotes healthy attachment. Some parents feel deeply connected with their baby immediately after birth. For some parents, it can take longer—weeks or months. Both are normal. To encourage bonding and connection, both partners can try some of the following ideas with baby:
- Skin-to-skin contact–this can be done during breastfeeding or bottle feeding. Skin-to-skin contact can also be done in a sling or baby carrier. There are tons of benefits to this form of connection!
- Talk to your baby and smile at them. Remember to put the phone away. Pay attention to eye contact while talking to them. Making eye contact is one of the ways your baby connects with you, too.
- Singing to them, listening to music, and dancing with your baby. Music can help both of you feel more relaxed and enjoy time together.
- Play peek-a-boo and make faces at your baby. Mirror your baby’s movements and vocalizations. You don’t have to play for a long time–watch for signs of overstimulation.
- Bath time can be a great way for dads to connect with their baby. Try following up a bath with a baby massage.
As kids age, their need for connection continues. Toddlers can learn how to regulate their emotions by connecting with their caregivers. Connect with your toddlers and young kids by:
- Talking to them about their day or a recent fun family time together.
- Make art together. Trace and color both your hands or feet, draw with chalk outside, try finger painting, or grab a special coloring book.
- Do chores together to help kids feel like they are a vital part of the family. For younger kids, this could include watering outdoor plants, pulling laundry out of the dryer, or helping stir something in the kitchen.
- Spending time outdoors together. Usually, young children will usually find something simple to do and enjoy simply being in nature.
- Have a dance party together! Research shows that listening to music as a family creates healthy bonds and positive memories.
As kids start school, they will continue to value the connections they make with their parents. Connect with your school-age kids by:
- Spending time in nature. You could try doing a scavenger hunt, bird watching, or making fairy homes.
- Start a conversation with your kids. Ask them about one good thing and one bad thing that has happened to them that week or day. You can work on problem solving together, too.
- Give hugs and touch your kids on the shoulder or back. Try giving six-second hugs or at least five hugs a day. Start with high-fives if your child isn’t comfortable with that many hugs. You can also try being the last to let go when you hug.
- Remember to make eye contact with your kids.
Teenagers naturally work to develop separate identities from their families. However, connecting with your teen remains important during this critical time in their life.
- To connect, take a vacation together. You might try and get your teen in on planning the vacation. New settings and experiences often lead to bonding. Reminiscing about the trip later or creating a scrapbook can reinforce the bond.
- Connect with them on social media. Research shows that teens who interacted with their parents on social media felt more connected to them.
- Develop hobbies you can do together. This could include things like knitting, woodworking, sewing, gardening, hiking, or baking.
- Listen and get interested in their worlds. Spend 10 minutes listening to them talk about something that interests them that you don’t know much about–a video game for example. Then see if you all can play together. If not, that’s okay. Making an effort to care about what they care about is what’s essential.
Are you looking for more support for yourself or your child? Please reach out to us. Our team of therapists is here to provide support and guidance. We look forward to connecting with you.
Kate is the Founder and Clinical Director of Sage House Counseling & Art Therapy. With nearly ten years of clinical experience, I partner with you to connect back to your authentic, true self. The self that desires happiness, abundance and greater self-compassion. I work with clients just like you because I believe we all have the innate ability to heal and grow when we are heard and supported.