Strong and safe connections are vital to children’s overall well-being and development. Children that display “attention seeking” behaviors are frequently seeking connection from adults. Often times we assume that connections between children and parents “just happen”, but connections are something that we all have to work at.
The good news is, building strong connections doesn’t have to be hard work. Making strong and safe connections with our children, at any age, starts with making time for your kids and being present with them during that time. Take time to be aware of your own tone of voice when interacting with your children. If you are feeling overwhelmed and stressed out, take a moment to take a deep breath before you interact with your children, so that the interaction you have with them is a joyful and relaxed interaction.
Providing children with encouragement and affirmations is also important to building strong and safe connections. Be specific with the affirmations and encouragement you provide your children. So instead of saying “Good Job”, be more specific with “Wow, you listened so well”. It is also important that we not only recognize children’s successes but also their efforts. Saying something like “You worked so hard on that” or “It seems like you put a lot of work into that, I know you tried” can help a child know that they are loved and supported, which in turn helps build the strong connection between you and the child.
Taking time to make connections, also doesn’t have to be as formal as sitting down to dinner, or even to play a game. It can be as quick and simple as reading a book together, checking the mail together, or incorporating the child into your daily tasks, like helping check the mail or cook dinner. It can also be something fun and silly like a kitchen dance party or singing the child’s favorite song on the way to school. Whatever it is, taking the time is what will make the strong connections that all children need to thrive.
By Alice Boutz, LMSW – Mental Health Specialist