Wondering how you can get more connected to your child? Read all about it in today’s column. Nathalie Baeckelmans tells you the basics about parent-child relationships and communication, based on her new project: the Magical Oak.
A strong bond with your child, I think every parent would love that. When that little human being is born, you look for ways to support the bond with your baby while you often encounter obstacles. That baby doesn’t speak yet, you hear so much opposing information that sends you in 10 different directions and on top of that you sometimes feel like a fish out of water.
There are many ways to bond with your child, no matter what age they are.
Before we talk about that bond we first need to understand the nature of a child. Because without understanding what the other means, how they react or why certain things happen, a connection hasn’t happened yet.
A very important aspect herein is communication. “How”, you say? “My baby doesn’t talk yet and my pre-schooler pretends he doesn’t know what I am trying to say!”. Well, to answer you, we first have to look into what communication is:
Sender – Message – Receiver
The sender, person 1, sends a message to the receiver, person 2. Very simple but at the same time the most complicated thing in existence because so many things can go wrong. Person 1 speaks a different language than person 2: the message will not be understood. And even when you speak the same language, the message can arrive in so many different ways than the sender had intended. A must for good communication is that the message arrives to the reciever in the way it was intended. You call somone on the phone; have a conversation and all of a sudden the call is dropped. “The connection was broken”, we say.
So communication IS connection. The real skill is to find a good way of connecting. Except for speaking there are many extra ways to bring across the message. Children are very good at these. The non-verbal communication is, as you probably already know, just as important as the verbal. Expecially in those first years of that young life they are even more important.
That little bundle of joy can’t do much more than make little sounds, cry and try to coordinate its body. And still he knows in very subtle ways to let you know what he needs. Your baby sends so many little signals, which you as parent can receive and answer. To do so you need to be very attentive, because the differences in facial expressions and behavior are sometimes so small that it is very easy to miss them.
Know that crying for your baby means the same thing as sounding the alarm, an alarm that goes off when he feels insecure, for instance by being alone, hungry or in pain. Crying is not a natural state of being for this little child; it’s the final expression of a series of signals. That is one reason to keep your baby close: that way you are much more aware of his communication and you can give him what he needs before the “final” alarm goes off. By responding quickly you enlarge his feeling of safety and will his trust in you grow. This is very important if you want the connection with your child to get bigger.
Once the newborn becomes stronger and he begins to walk, they also start to try forming their first words. As a parent you quickly start understanding what your child is babbling (brothers and sisters are even better at this!), but the non-verbal communication is still very important. By observing well you see the underlying emotion of your child. They can sometimes be very different than what the child is trying to say. That tantrum in the store? It could be that he is angry, but also sad, tired or even scared.
Toddlers experience emotions in a very intense way, but they don’t just yet understand what is happening in their little body. Is your child stuck in an intense emotion? Try to calm him first. This could be done by holding him but not every child likes this. Read your child’s body language to find out what he needs. Definitely stay close by, so he can get to you. Sometimes children want to stomp around a bit first to finally come sit in your lap.
A tantrum of course is an extreme example. Also in more docile, daily situations your toddler will show you a lot of non-verbal communication. By noticing those it becomes easier to support him.
The trust that your baby already had in you becomes much stronger this way. Your child knows that he can be himself, and that you are a safe haven who understands what he means. In every step of growing up there will be other challenges, but continuingly keeping your bond, results each time in trust, safety and feeling understood.
Once those mini-humans go to school their development in language and general development grows leaps and bounds. You’d be amazed at what they come and tell you. Their posture is getting more refined all the time, and sometimes it becomes more difficult to be able to read.
Luckily there is playtime. Observe your children while they play because they will give you a great insight in how they experience the society. They play out situations they encountered or let escape through their dolls what is bothering them.
Children process their day during playtime, and if you pay attention you can learn a lot. It is also useful to help your child out of a for them difficult situation in a playful way. Does your child not want to brush their teeth after an exhausting day? Saying you just have to probably won’t give you the best results. But try to ask them if they want to brush your teeth? But at the moment they come close to your mouth with the toothbrush pull away and shout: “Noooooo, I don’t want to brush my teeth!” it is very possible your pre-schooler will find that hilarious. Do it a few times in a row and the heavy load that brushing teeth once was is now gone. Afterwards you can brush eachother’s teeth and just like that the task is done.
What happens here is that the parent shows the child that he understands that brushing your teeth after a busy day isn’t fun. The child feels understood and heard and it makes it much easier to ask the child to cooperate.
More than a conversation
Communication is much more than having a conversation. It’s the basis of connection, the place where you learn to understand and lay the foundations for later. Building trust, your child that feels understood and safe, are things that strengthen your bond. Even better: by truly choosing for that deep connection between you two you give your child all the tools to develop into it’s best self.
Because it is my mission to connect parents and children more, I am working hard on a program where in an accessible way you get the necessary tips and tools to experience that magic. With my own developed method, the Magical Oak, you first go through the basis and the environment, and by the opening up of your child you can see the magic when you both are within your own power.
Subscribe to Nathalie’s new blog if you would like to discover tips on how to completely focus on the understanding of your child, on more connection.