Learn to curb your frustrations. It is easy to become overwhelmed and snap, but regularly losing your temper with your kids will only create distance between you and lead them to act out in other ways. It’s still very important to set boundaries and discipline, just without being fired by extreme emotions. This becomes easier as we learn to regulate our emotions better, and work on our mental fitness.
It can be hard can’t it when we try to remember who we are whilst also ensuring the kids become the best version of themselves. I have asked myself for a long time how I can better improve the connection with my kids in a meaningful and effective way that not only means they grow up with respect and care but also have a Dad who is present, who has fun and isn’t the grumpy old man shouting at them all the time! Note – I am certainly not perfect here!
Are the pressures of work and parenting making it hard to build those strong family bonds? This article explores how focusing on self-preservation and mental fitness could have amazing impacts on parent-child connections, with some tips to get started!
The Foundations of a better Parent-Child bond
Lets start at the bottom and work our way up. Before we look at the foundations of parent-child connections, let’s think about our own foundations. Because, quite simply, if you’re own needs aren’t met, realistically you cannot reach your full, fantastic Dad potential! This is where mental fitness comes in.
So, what does it mean to exercise mental fitness?
Mental fitness can be defined as tuning into our feelings, thoughts and behaviours, and addressing them. This could look different from person to person and is achieved through experimentation, determination and consistency. There are many pillars of mental fitness, but here are the ones that are particularly important for parents: (also read: How to check in with your mental fitness)
- Self-Regulation. The ability to self-regulate your feelings comes with practice. This can be tricky when also trying to regulate an overstimulated or agitated child. However, helping a child handle their feelings and outbursts will be easier if you learn to understand and manage your own feelings first.
Some ways to self-regulate include noticing feelings and behaviours and identifying your triggers. Once you’ve identified your patterns, you can start to tackle them (with self-compassion and healthy habits) to self sooth and be the best version of yourself!
Here are some further tips: 6 Key Skills to Regulate Emotions
- 2. Relaxation – ensuring you allow yourself time for hobbies, socialisation and play. As a busy working dad, it couldn’t be more important to have silly fun or do something just for you. Remember, a burnt-out dad is not an available dad.
- 3. Body – Mind Connection is something to always consider when discussing mental fitness. You must look after your physical health to achieve mental wellbeing. Being the best and healthiest version of yourself allows you to create stronger connections with your children!
Further reading! Check out our article How to Build Stronger Connection with Yourself for more ways to build on our inner connection and achieve mental wellbeing!
The Foundations of Parent Child Connections
Strong bonds between parents and children are cultivated in safe, secure environments. So, what constitutes a safe space for a child?
- Consistency. A parent who is consistent with structure, boundaries and behaviours builds trust, strengthening bonds. Familiarity allows children to feel safe and relaxed.
- Patience and compassion. A parent who can self-regulate their emotions is a safe and secure adult figure for children to trust and confide in.
- Love. A parent who regularly shows their love, and looks after themselves (modelling self-love and self-respect)
Kids copy everything. You are constantly modelling behaviour, whether you’re aware or not. The trick is to become more aware of your own behaviours.
When you model positive interactions, behaviours and attitudes it will allow you to connect and relate with your child; Children are sponges and will soak up their environment, so if they see you acting with respect and kindness, they are more likely to display this themselves (and to you!) making dad life a little easier. So being friendly, caring, gentle and kind will help to nurture your children and your connection with them.
The Importance of Play and Quality Time
We talked about the importance of having down time for ourselves, but what about with our kids?
It’s important we stick to our promises with kids, so planning a weekly activity can keep us accountable. On the flip side, setting boundaries so kids know you can’t always be giving undivided attention is also important. This helps kids to grow independence and play, create or read alone sometimes.
How can we stay accountable for quality time and play? A way to do this is to create a balance of parent-child rituals and a regular joint activity. Parent child rituals could look like eating meals together or reading before bed. Combine this with a shared hobby. It could even be as simple as a trip into nature, a sport or craft. Simply something you can enjoy together.
Having at least one weekly activity together creates consistent play time, where you can have a laugh with your kids and strengthen that special bond.
Undivided Attention and Mental Fitness
To give a child undivided attention, avoiding burn out is crucial.
If you’re taking on too much work, and can’t find enough time for your family, or find you are too tired to interact, something might need to change.
Things to consider when balancing work, family and life:
- Learn to say no. Know your limits and listen to your body and mind. If you are feeling over stressed and exhausted, the balance might be off. Say no to taking on extra work and allow yourself more time to rest or have fun.
- Self-compassion. Stop beating yourself up for the past, or what you haven’t yet done. Focus on the things you have done and achieved so far. Acknowledging your small triumphs will help you feel happier within – like trying a new hobby, spending more time with your kids, cooking a new meal, working on your mental fitness. You don’t always have to excel – sometimes you just need to be and live more slowly.
- Priorities. Work is a big part of life, but sharing special moments with family and forming core memories is paramount. When you are overworked, burnt out and stressed, you can’t enjoy these moments properly. So, prioritise being healthy and living for the moment. Find time for the things you’ll remember. Find time to build connections with your kids.
So, How Can We Build Our Parent-Child Connections…
To build stronger relationships with our kids, we must first look inwards. If you feel you could be closer to your children, check in with yourself. Take note if you think you could be doing more to be the best version of you, to be present and engaged. Plan your quality time with the kids and find a regular activity to bond and share happiness. Tell them you love them! Even if it makes them awkward, it will pay off in the end.
I spoke with some leading voices on the topic of parent child connection and how Dads can a) prepare better to become a Dad, and b) become connected at a much earlier time in the child’s life and become a positive, included and happy parent. Check them out on our YouTube channel below…