As parents, the memories linger from the first time you laid eyes on your child or the first time you held your child. Those are memorable moments. As your child continues to grow, there will be additional moments that strengthen your relationship. Strengthening your relationship builds bonds of love, connectedness, and support that last a lifetime.

Research throughout the years has indicated that bonding and attachment in infancy has many benefits in your child’s life which may include independence, self-reliance, better academic performance, and positive social interactions. When they were babies, we bonded by holding them, looking into their eyes, smiling at them and talking to them. As they grow in personality and become mobile, we have to find innovative ways to further our bonds. 

Here are 5 simple things you can do to strengthen your relationship with your child:

1. Read Together

Reading is fundamental to bonding and you can start doing it even when they are infants. As your child grows, reading can be an integral part of your quality time together. Having them sit on your lap and reading a story while making all the wonderful voices for each character not only gives them an appreciation for reading, but it also expands their vocabulary. As they reach ages 5-8, allow them to read to you.   

2. Get Physical 

As family therapist Virginia Satir famously said, “We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.” Find those times in the day when you can physically connect with your child. Wake them up with a hug and a smile. As you prepare for your day either in person or virtual, create a routine of hugging, butterfly kisses, or a special handshake to signal the beginning of the work/school day. Small gestures like a pat on the back, a rub on the shoulder or an old-fashioned high five are ways to bond with your child. 

3. Play

Play can take on many forms as your child grows—from peek-a-boo with an infant to board and card games, even appropriate video games. Plus, play bonds us because when we laugh and engage in rough and tumble play it stimulates the release of endorphins and oxytocin. Take time to show your child the games you played at their age: Hide and Seek, Tag, Red Light, Green Light, Tic-Tac-Toe just to name a few. 

4. Make time to give each child your undivided attention

We always seem to have things take up time on our schedules from work expectations, household responsibilities, or family activities. Sometimes we turn to our devices to take us away from all that is on our to-do list. Making time for your child can seem like another thing to be added to our list. However, it is vital to take small moments of time to focus your attention on your child. It doesn’t have to be long but your child will feel cared for, valued, and important to you. If you are the parent of more than one child, making time for each child builds a personal and individual connection between you. 

5. Enjoy each moment with your child

Your child will grow so fast, but hoping and wishing for the next stage only seems to make the time go faster. Learn to enjoy and savor each moment with your child whether it be making cookies, building a snowman, or singing at the top of your lungs. Slow down to appreciate the small moments together.

The famous saying, “the days are long but the years are short” may resonate with you, especially when you are dealing with an extra-long day. It may feel like everything is calling for your attention from the dishes to the laundry. Consider the big picture—there will be plenty of time to focus on cleaning out closets and a spotless house when your child is Grown and Gone. It’s not always the big moments that stand out, but those small little times that make the largest impact. Make and take time each day to strengthen your relationship with your child.

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