25 Mar Restore meaningful family connection
Why is emotional connection between families so important?
Emotional connection is a powerful force which affects the way we think, feel and act. Having a strong emotional bond with your children is key to positively affecting their health and wellbeing. It is known to support brain development and combat mental health issues, low self-worth, anxiety, depression and addiction.
Some families are naturally well bonded, for others getting close on an emotional level can be more of a challenge. This can be down to various reasons such as trauma, loss, separation, divorce, integration with new partners or step siblings, abuse or even simply having different personalities.
How easy is it to bond with your family?
To start with – let’s be real – no family is perfect, fact! There is absolutely no family on this earth that hasn’t been without trouble at some point. No matter how ‘idyllic’ some people may portray their family life, don’t get swept up in comparison or thinking their life is perfect. Each family has their own set of issues, whether you know about them or not.
So don’t beat yourself up if you feel your family’s emotional relationship needs some work. We all need to strive towards getting on better with those we love. There is no silver bullet either, it’s something we must constantly work on. The good thing is, developing family connection is within our power and it’s something we can enjoy along the way!
How modern-day life gets in the way of family bonding
It is important to be mindful of the challenges that can impede emotional boding between families. Living in an ultra-connected, high-speed a world where ‘busyness’ is the norm and everyone strives towards uber productivity, can be at the detriment to human connection.
Children as young at 2 can be fixated by screen-time, teenagers often favour computers over family time and parents struggle to manage work, housework and the quality of childcare they would like. The distractions of ultra-connectivity, what others are doing on social platforms, and an overwhelm of information from the media can all interfere with finding deep connection with those around us. Fortunately, there are simple steps we can take to restore meaningful family connection and create a powerful bond with your children.
How to encourage positive parent to child bonding
Many of the actions we can take towards fostering better relationships with our kids or partners, are free and we can start immediately. Take small steps, and reward simples wins along the way. Family bonding will always be a work in process, so just keep going.
Establishing good communication between family members is key to emotional connection. Communication doesn’t have to always be deep and meaningful. Just chatting about the day’s events is a great way to build rapport. Be sure to incorporate regular family meals, outings or activities into everyday life.
Learning to empathise
Family members can often feel isolated from one another when they don’t feel listened to or understood. This can be especially relevant for teenagers. Empathy should be a two-way street between parents and children, as well as partners in a relationship. To lead by example, work on trying to see things from the perspective of others. Accept that not everyone thinks like you, everyone is entitled to their opinion and others many have different likes, dislikes strengths and weaknesses to you.
Be kind to one another. Children learn through observation of those closest to them. Be a role model for compassion and consideration for others. Teach your children the joys of sharing and doing things for others. Whether it’s sharing toys or doing helpful deeds for elderly relatives. Show appreciation of acts of kindness and celebrate good behaviour.
Start good habits
Humans are hard programmed to stick to habits, good or bad ones. Be mindful of habits that are causing suffering to family bonding. This could be how a conversation may escalate into an argument when certain topics are discussed, how children can provoke one another when bored, or how parents can get angry when overwhelmed.
Try to turn these habits into new ones, by being aware of the triggers and activating a new habit to counteract the old. Such as not bringing up certain subjects that you know will cause conflict. Choose the right time to discuss them honestly and openly, and work towards practical solutions to resolve the issues. Having ‘go-to’ activities or planning for times when children get bored such as school holidays. Looking closely at why parents are getting frazzled and what non-essential items can be cut from stressful schedules.
As a family, celebrate what makes you unique. There are certain things we do within our family unit which are meaningful and special to only us. Creating space for these special moments is really important and fun. You may already have traditions as a family, or why not make some new opportunities for togetherness. It could be going for a walk on Christmas day, having dinner on a Sunday with extend family, or volunteering to do a beach clean together once per year. It makes us feel like we belong and invested in strengthen our bonds. Make a point of getting everyone together for these instants and celebrating what makes you a family.
Harness the power of play
Doing activities together as a family which inspire creativity, cooperation and enjoyment are a brilliant way to promote ‘feel good’ sensations and connection. Play is often bottom on the list of family ‘to-dos’, but making time for this social time together can have a positive effect on all the other demands in our busy lives.
Play is proven to positively affect cognitive and emotional development of children, and adults. It gives us the chance to switch off from things that could be disturbing us, time to relax and be free. And, it’s not just for kids! Whether it’s playing games in the garden, a board game on holiday, cooking or doing something artistic together, play and creativity provide an outlet for negative emotions and an epicentre for positive vibes for all ages.