By Donna Jones, Crosswalk.com
Rare is the parent who doesn’t want to feel bonded with her child. Even more rare is the child who doesn’t want to feel bonded with her parent.
And yet, millions of families co-exist without really knowing one another, without feeling accepted by one another, or without feeling connected to one another. In other words, too many of us race through life without being bonded with our family.
We can blame social media, or cell phones, or schedules, or oversight, but the fact remains, living disconnected is epidemic. But we need to be bonded with those we love.
We crave it. And so do our kids.
In her article on emotional connection, Diane Grande, PhD notes people feel bonded when three needs are met:
- The need for accessibility. (Will you be there for me? Can I get your attention? Will you listen to me? Are you present?)
- The need for responsiveness (Will you respond to my emotions in a way that makes me feel loved, accepted and comforted? Will you laugh with me? Will you cry with me? Will you show me you love me with your actions?
- The need for care (Will you care for my needs and about my needs? Do you care about my joys, hurts, concerns, thoughts and dreams?)
In addition, families bond through shared experiences, shared values, shared traditions, and shared laughter.
Is there a sure-fire way we can communicate our accessibility, responsiveness and care for our kids? A simple, do-able way parents can promote bonding with our kids? There is!
It’s called conversation.
And good conversation begins with good questions.
The following questions will help you to create a sense of connection and bonding with your child. These questions will give you insight into your child, and provide an opportunity for you to listen to, laugh with, and learn about your child.
When appropriate, follow up your child’s answer by asking “why?”
1. Questions to Discover Your Child’s Preferences
When we take time to ask our child about his preferences, rather than assume we know, or think a child’s preferences don’t matter, we show we care. Asking our child about his preferences gives us an opportunity to listen and gives our child an opportunity to be heard. This not only promotes bonding between parent and child, it promotes a child’s confidence, too!
1. Would you rather be on only child or have 12 siblings?
2. Would you rather be the oldest child, youngest child, or middle child?
3. What is your favorite holiday?
4. What is your favorite dinner?
5. What is your favorite movie/TV show/book?
6. What do you like least about school? What do you like best?
7. What is your idea of a perfect day?
8. What is your favorite gift you’ve ever received?
9. What do you like about meeting new people? What don’t you like about meeting new people?
10. What is your favorite Bible story?
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2. Questions to Discover Your Child’s Feelings
Surface bonding occurs when we talk about surface issues. Deep bonding, however, happens when we discover we can talk freely about our deep feelings.
Kids aren’t always open or ready to talk about their feelings, (for that matter, neither are adults!) but simple questions can pave the way for a child to express emotions when they are ready. And sometimes, a question is all it takes for a child to be ready to talk about what’s going on inside.
1. When was the last time you felt really good about yourself, or something you did?
2. When was the last time you were mad? What happened?
3. What is one good thing that happened to you today? What makes you feel happy?
4. What is one not-so-good thing that happened to you today? What makes you feel frustrated?
5. What makes you feel sad?
6. What makes you feel encouraged?
7. What makes you feel discouraged?
8. When was the last time you felt disappointed?
9. When was the last time you felt hurt? What happened?
10. What do you wish I knew about you, but don’t?
When a child shares a difficult emotion the best response is not to correct, but to listen. Listening allows a child to feel safe, accepted, and free to remain open.
This is bonding in action.
Correction, if necessary, can come later. If we correct our child’s emotions too soon, our child quickly learns we aren’t a safe place to process messy feelings.
Occasionally it’s best to identify with our child’s feelings. For example, if your child shares an embarrassing moment, you may want to share one of your embarrassing moments, too. Remember, people bond over shared experiences--and a good laugh!
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3. Questions About Your Child’s Perspectives
It’s easy to forget our child has a perspective that’s uniquely his own. Our child is not a smaller or younger version of us. Our child is a separate person created by God, and loved by God.
When we understand our child’s unique bent, subtle differences, and individual viewpoint we’ll be better equipped to parent with wisdom, and our child will feel accepted, understood, valued, and loved.
1. If you could change yourself in one way, what would it be?
2. What’s the biggest advantage of your birth order? What’s the biggest challenge?
3. Would you rather be surprised by a receiving a present from me (something I know you’ll like) or spend the day with me at a place I know you’ll love?
4. Would you rather have one best friend but not be popular, or be popular but not have a best friend? (You may want to follow up with “Do you have a best friend? If not, who is your closest friend?”)
5. Would you rather get all “A’s” in school, or be the best athlete, singer, artist, dancer, etc.…at your school?
6. Is there anything new you’d like to try (a sport? Art class? Voice lessons?) Is there something the other members of our family haven’t ever explored that interests you?
7. How can I help you? Is there anyway you’d like me to help more? Any way you’d like me to help less?
8. What’s really important to you right now?
9. Is there anything you are concerned about, or worried about, right now?
10. What do you think God is like?
Every person craves connection. The good news is, every parent and child can be bonded.
Kids want to know we are accessible, we are responsive, and that we genuinely care. If we take a few minutes each day--at dinner, in the car, while doing chores--to ask our child a simple question or two, we can build a bridge of bonding that can last a lifetime.
Donna Jones is a national speaker, author, pastor’s wife, and mom to three funny, Jesus loving young adults who frequently sit on her kitchen counter just to chat. She’s the author of Seek: A Woman’s Guide to Meeting, God, Taming Your Family Zoo, Raising Kids with Good Manners and the Get Healthy Bible study series for women. Find out about Donna’s resources at www.donnajones.org or on Instagram @donnaajones.
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