Uncertain Times: The Power of Connecting with Your Child
We are definitely living in uncertain times. What may or may not happen down
the road is frightening, to say the least. However, what lessens our fear is the
emotional connection we have with others, and this especially true for children
and their parents.
Most fathers would probably agree that understanding their own feelings, never
mind the feelings of their children, is a challenge. Granted, emotions and bonding
are rather nebulous concepts and especially to men who have served or are
serving. In contrast, most women seem to form attachments with their newborns
and, later, their children somewhat effortlessly. Whether this is hereditary,
learned, or some combination of the two, who knows? What is known is that men
typically do not find interacting with newborns and toddlers particularly
In fact, it isn’t until children are around 7+ years old that dads start to
really interact with them. Deployments and work related travel further impede
this emotional connection between fathers and their children.
Still, some fathers may ask: Why are we even talking about this topic?! Well, a
healthy parent-child connection or bond essentially creates a blueprint for
subsequent social, emotional, and psychological development in children.
In other words, this bond creates security and confidence in your child as well as dictates how their future relationships will unfold.
In fact, a secure bond between a parent and child enables the child to trust others as well as form healthy and loving relationships. In contrast, a weak or problematic connection with one or both parents, typically results in all sorts of mental health and relational issues down
In fact, many adults who are currently struggling with anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, and/or chemical abuse/dependency often feel emotionally disconnected from others. Suffice to say, creating and then maintaining an emotional connection with your child is hugely important.
Despite having a late start, there are all sorts of things fathers can do to create a
strong bond with their children. Most of these interventions require minimal time
and effort. For example, start with putting down your phone, laptop, and to-do
list. Search for your child and then sit down with him or her. Solely focus on what
he or she is doing and nothing more. That is, be emotionally as well as physically
present. Observe, and then ask an occasional and thoughtful open-ended
question. Patiently wait for an answer. Boom, it’s started! Really?! Yes, and even
though these steps may not seem like much, they’re truly the beginning of a
lifelong dialogue as well as connection.
Like a seedling, this emerging emotional connection with your child will require a
certain level of care or interaction to grow. So, find something to do and that
appeals to both of you. Do it over and over again. Don’t over think it. It could be
something as simple as you and your son or daughter regularly reading a book
together, going for a walk through the neighborhood, going out for an ice cream
(once the ban has been lifted!), working in the garden, building something
together, etc. What you’re shooting for is regular, predictable, and unhurried time
together with your child. Note that a once or twice a year shared family vacation
won’t cut it. Vacations are not a replacement for frequent and predictable fatherchild
Suffice to say, almost nothing changes as a function of time. Therefore, if you
truly want to be connected to your children and you also want them to be
prepared for the future, do something now to strengthen your emotional
connection with them. You’ll both be thankful that you did.
For additional non-emergent questions, feel free to contact me at, “Ask the Child
Shrink”. Dr. James Shrink is a child clinical psychologist with more than 30+ years
experience. He specializes in evaluating & treating boys and teenage boys.