- Dr. Shola
Parent And Child Relationships
Relationship is emotional connectedness between individuals. The whole structure of our society is based on relationships with the family being the fundamental unit of society. The design of human beings is to seek relationships and connectedness with others. One of the most important relationships is the parent and child relationship. The relationships parents and carers have with their children creates the foundation for their children’s development. It has a profound effect on who the child grows up to be and what he or she contributes to society. As such it is of paramount importance to build healthy parent and child relationships. However, it must be noted that it is the quality of the parent child relationship that is particularly important. In addition, the parent child relationship is co constructed by both the parent and the child, not something that comes from the parent alone.
Research has shown that the first three years of a child are important and are the brain building years. Children’s experiences in the early years of life will influence their brain development. Babies are born with their entire brain cells but the cells begin to connect with each other and form pathways from birth, especially in the first 6-12 months. The genetic makeup forms the structure for the brain and the connections, while the fine tuning of these connections depends on the experiences they have. Every experience excites certain parts of the brain. Positive experiences that are repeated, such as being hugged or playing, will consistently turn on certain parts of the brain and strengthen those pathways. Positive early relationships will assist children to better cope with life’s challenges. Babies and children do best if they have at least one person who they are very close to in the first year of life that consistently provides loving care. This is called attachment.
The emotional, social and intellectual development of children is linked, with each depending on and influencing the other. Anyone caring for a child can promote their social, emotional and intellectual development by showing them love and by talking, singing, reading and playing with them. These can become part of the everyday activities of caring for a child. It is important to have realistic expectations of what children are capable of at each stage of development.
How to enhance parent child relationships
Babies thrive best when those around them are happy and calm. Value yourself and what you can do. Ask for help from family and friends. Show your baby you love him with smiles, kisses, hugs. Look at your baby’s face while they look at you as this helps bonding and helps brain development. Let him touch your face. You can’t spoil your baby by giving too much attention. Talk to your baby and wait for him to respond. Try to develop routines for baths and sleep about the same time every day. Sing or say the same rhyme each bedtime. Read to your baby while holding him. Lullabies can help soothe and help your baby sleep.
As your baby grows older and more mobile, he begins to use you as a safe base from which to explore. Infant exploration is greater when the caregiver is present because the infant’s attachment system is relaxed and it is free to explore. Your baby may change from being friendly with everyone to wanting to cling to you and being scared of strangers. This is normal. Stay calm, provide comfort and reassurance for your child. If you are leaving your baby for a while, say goodbye and let him know that you will be back. Face your child so that he can watch your expressions to learn about them. Use meal time for the family to talk. Play games that have songs and actions together.
Whereas a baby will cry because of pain, a two year old will cry to summon their caregiver and if that does not work, cry louder or shout or follow. Children also begin to notice other’s goals and feelings and plan their actions accordingly. This is the time when children assert their feelings and wishes and become fussy about foods or refuse to do what you ask. Encourage but do not force your child to eat. Teach simple rules about behaviour and have reasonable expectations. Take your child to explore in the garden or a park and talk to them about what they see. Spend time with your child doing what he likes so he knows you are interested. Deep connections form between parents and children when they play together. Create a safe home where your child can explore. Some children’s play should be child-driven and unstructured.
Tantrums are common and normal around this age. Little tantrums are best ignored. Help your child to identify and name his emotions. Learn to recognise and anticipate things that set your child off into a tantrum. Try distracting them with a toy. Set a good example yourself and try not to lose your temper. Seek professional help if you feel you are not coping.
Children need to feel loved and feel good about themselves. At this stage, they are beginning to master the more formal skills of life, for example relating with peers according to rules, taking part in teamwork and team sports. A healthy parent child relationship equips the child to navigate this more complex stage in his life. A person is not born with a high or low self-esteem. Self esteem is developed in childhood and can be changed throughout life. Having high self esteem means valuing, liking and believing in yourself and what you can do. Children who have a healthy self esteem are likely to be happy, cooperative, successful at school and make friends easily. They are also likely to cope with stress effectively and are less likely to develop behaviour problems. Showing affection to your child, spending time with him in play, reading or even doing the house work can help boost his self esteem.
The examples set by parents and carers are powerful influences in shaping children’s behaviour. Children learn self control and good behaviour when those around them treat others with kindness, respect and patience. Children follow their example. If adults shout and behave violently, children will learn this type o f behaviour. Saying positive things to children helps them feel positive about themselves and about the person saying it.
Children benefit from parenting that is predictable and consistent. It is important to give children clear explanations about what to do, what not to do. Children should be praised for good behaviour. These are effective ways of encouraging children to become responsible members of the society.
Parents of older children can develop and maintain excellent relationships with their teenagers. Affection, positive discipline and mutual respect are some of the ways to achieve this. Adolescents can be encouraged to have more input in decisions or events that affect their lives. Children need assistance to learn and develop problem solving skills, how to make choices and accept the consequences for these. This develops resilience and confidence in dealing with problems when they arise. Parents can listen for and respond sensitively to children’s needs and build on their strengths. This can happen when the parents have empathy and respect for the children and are open to learning, growing and changing in their role as parents.
Older children may feel embarrassed with physical contact especially in public. However, they still need that kind of attention. Learn to take cues for your child and know when he needs a hug or a pat on the back. Teenage children may simply need to sit next to their parents to watch their favorite television program or go to the stadium with their parents to watch their team play. Remember to give adequate attention to the older siblings and not focus solely on the younger children.
Discipline in adolescents should also be consistent and predictable. Rules need to be fair and reasonable. It is important for parents to give children a reason for what they are doing, or what they are asking children to do. Being overly strict and controlling or too permissive may have negative effects on children. Help your child grow to be mature adults by allowing them to face up to the consequences of their behaviour. For example if he does not save his money wisely, he may not be able to purchase a large item that he desires. This helps your child develop internal discipline.
When adolescents misbehave, parents should make it a priority to find out the reason for the misbehavior rather than reacting to the behaviour. Make it a priority to keep open communication with your teenager. Remaining calm and demonstrating good listening skills are very important to help your child feel appreciated and safe.
When things go wrong
Parenting and building healthy parent child relationships are learnt along the way as you go. Every parent makes mistakes and learns by experience. Some children are difficult to develop relationships with for various reasons ranging from genetic factors, mental health issues (in the child or parent), drugs and alcohol (child or parent) external influences (living in Dubai, peer pressure, internet). For whatever reason the relationship breaks down, it is never too late to try and rebuild it. It takes many people to raise a child. Family, friends, child carers and neighbours are people that can support family life. Have realistic expectations of yourself as the parent and have confidence in what you are doing. Spend time with other parents. Seek professional help with a developmental and behaviour paediatrician, a clinical psychologist specialized in child and family counseling, a psychiatrist (child and family) or your family doctor.