Children need to feel close to their parents. While physically closeness is important, emotional closeness forms a strong bond that gives kids a sense of security.
“We are condition setters every day,” said parent coach, Meghan Leahy. “Kids take their cues from our behavior.”
As fathers, we have to examine ourselves to make sure that we are setting conditions that build emotional closeness. Inconsistencies in our behavior towards our children can lead to angst and confusion. The bad news is that no dad can behave consistently 100% of the time. We all make mistakes. The good news is that we can use our mistakes as teachable moments. Our vulnerability builds trust and trust leads to emotional closeness.
If you want to build a strong emotional connection with your children, here are three things you can do.
Acknowledge That You are Not Perfect
Parenting is hard. That is a fact. However, many fathers get frustrated because they try to be super dads and often miss the mark. This frustration can lead to your lashing out at your kids when things go wrong. In extreme cases, it can lead to alcoholism, depression, or abuse. No one, especially your children, expects you to be perfect. NO PARENT IS PERFECT. Once you release yourself of this pressure, then it will be easier to connect with your children on a deeper level. Acknowledge your imperfections. Admit you don’t know everything. Seek forgiveness when you lose control. Perfection is unattainable, but it is possible for you to be the best parent that your child can have.
Be Present When You Are Present
In this age social media and 24-hour news, it’s easy to get distracted. While it may seem like you are connecting with your family just because you’re in the same room with them, that is not always the case. According to Leahy, we have to put aside distractions and “be there when you are there.” I’m guilty of looking at my phone instead of paying attention to my children when they are talking to me. This behavior tells them that my phone is more important than they are. Obviously, that is not the message I’m trying to convey, but my actions tell a different story. Your kids need to know that you are actively paying attention to them when they are trying to communicate with or interact with you. While it is nice to record and document precious moments with your family, it’s more important to fully experience those moments. The bonds you create by being present will be more precious than any Facebook post.
Make Frequent Check-ins
Frequently check in with your children to see how they are feeling. Changes in your children’s behavior, mood, or grades can signal emotional issues.
“Kids who feel insecure, don’t know how to express their insecurities,” said Leahy.
Some of these conversations may be difficult, but they are necessary if you want to build stronger emotional bonds with your children. Your willingness to communicate openly helps your children to feel secure and gives them an outlet to express their emotions in a safe environment.
Doing all of these things isn’t easy. But if you are open and honest with yourself and your children, you can develop a strong relationship built on love, trust, and honesty.