Search This Blog

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Using the Holidays to Strengthen the Parent-Child Relationship (By Anshu Basnyat, LCPC)

     We know that during the holidays, children are out of school and more at home.  We also know that holidays can make many go insane with all of the demands that are placed on us. So why not channel that energy into one that matters most to parents? That is, having a good, close relationship with our children. Positive relationships with our children reaps great rewards such as better academic performance, fewer discipline problems, knowledge about how to lead productive and safer lives, and many more.  Holiday time is a perfect opportunity to strengthen the parent-child relationship!

     Spending quality time is key in building a stronger relationship with our children. It is not only about having fun with them, but also taking the time to really express and exemplify what family values are important to us.  Maintaining a strong relationship with your child takes lot of time and effort, but it is also a fun, learning process! Below are five concrete ways to strengthen that bond.

Five Ways to Strengthen the Parent-Child Relationship during the Holidays:

1.    Play with your child. It does not matter what you play, but simply have fun with whatever you are doing with them. This can include a whole host of activities like dancing, singing, playing make believe, board games, card games, peek-a-boo, hide and go seek, etc. There has been tons of research supporting that playing with your child from very early on helps strengthen the bonding process. 

2.    Be flexible with schedules. During the holidays, sticking to a routine can be challenging. Grandparents, aunts and uncles come to visit or you visit them and they want to “spoil” your child with later bedtimes, extra treats, etc. It is important to set limits and structures, but you do not have to be rigid about implementing them during the holidays. Have you noticed that the more you try to impose your rules about these kinds of things, it makes you and your child more stressed, and possibly others around you?  For example, if 8pm is normal bed time, then 10pm is okay, but 2am is not acceptable. Otherwise, the next day will be a nightmare for everyone if your kids have sugar overload and not enough sleep. Being flexible is part of maintaining balance in parenting, especially during the holidays.

3.    Engage in activities that encourage giving to others. In today’s commercialized holiday seasons, it is easy to forget how important it is to give back to the community.  Buying canned goods and other food items to donate to local food banks is an easy thing we can all do with our children. Many schools and churches collect the goods, so this makes the giving process even easier!  When my son was younger, I used to do this on my own. Now that he is 6 years old and can understand the concept of giving, I have included him in the process. This is a great opportunity not only to talk about the importance of giving and taking care of each other in the community, but also to remember how grateful we are for the things we have and do not have to worry about like food, shelter, clothing, families and friends. 

    I am reminded of an episode of 60 Minutes I recently watched where families have become homeless and are living in their cars due to current, hard economic times.  According to the show, America’s homeless children have risen to 25%, which really struck me. With older children, watching programs like these with them, coming up with solutions, and implementing them would be a great way to give back and take care of each other. Encouraging giving to others can be simpler like helping a neighbor with raking their leaves, picking up neighborhood litter, holding the door at a store for someone, etc. Giving to others not only feels good, but helps build communities, our children become productive citizens and our parent-child relationship becomes deeper as a result!

4.    Make time for just listening. Listening is a skill that takes lot of practice! Listening does not mean you have to oblige to your child’s wishes. Listening is about respecting others. Especially if you have teenagers, listening and respecting, become two important ways of connecting with your emerging adult child. When I was going through my clinical training as a therapist at Johns Hopkins, one of my clinical supervisors used to say “just be with the client.” I did not quite understand what he meant by that at the time and might have facetiously thought “of course I am with the client, he is in my office.” Over the years, I have had many opportunities to practice listening and now I completely get it. It goes beyond just physically being there. It involves putting your needs aside and just being with the person both physically and emotionally. Good eye contact. No interruptions. No judgments. No need to top it off with your own stories or other needs. Now I would like to pass on that wisdom by saying “just be with your child.”

5.    Practice the gift of acceptance. This is really about what psychologists refer to as “unconditional positive regard” or unconditional love in laymen’s terms. Every child wants to feel loved no matter how terrible their behaviors may be. Every time a child hears something along these lines: “What is wrong with you?” or “Why can’t you do anything right?” or “What has gotten into you?” takes away from feeling that unconditional love and weakens the parent-child relationship. This can easily happen during the holidays as things get a little crazy and people are in frenzy. Instead, let your child know whichever way you can that you love them no matter what. Feeling accepted means knowing that the love you receive is not dependent on behaving well, getting good grades, obliging to every demand, etc. Just to be clear, accepting our children for who they are does not mean parents should adopt a laissez faire attitude in parenting.  It simply means that when a parent’s love for a child is not dependent on “something” then a stronger parent-child relationship evolves over time. 

        Happy parenting during the holidays!

No comments:

Post a Comment