• Michael Stern

How to Create a Powerful Bond with Your Child


This article was originally published on CredibleMind


Son & Daughter Day (August 11) invites us to celebrate the bond between parent and child and the miracle of bringing new life into the world.


My own five-year-old daughter, Isla, is kind, smart, funny, creative, curious, caring, wise, patient, understanding, strong, and powerful. I feel truly blessed to be so lucky.


Holding Isla and gazing into her eyes during the first moments after her birth is an experience I will never forget. In that moment I felt strongly that we were establishing a profound and unspoken bond that would be the foundation of our relationship for the rest of our lives.


Yet even before she was born, becoming a parent had already launched an incredible journey of discovery and transformation that continues uninterrupted to this day.


Below are some of the ways that journey has most impacted me as well as some resources that have been influential along the way.


Interpersonal Neurobiology


Dr. Daniel Siegel’s work illustrates how our relationships with our primary caregivers affect our psychological and emotional wellbeing as well as our neurological development and emphasizes how mindfulness can support healthy development in children and help adults heal unresolved issues from their past.


Knowing how important early attachment relationships are led Isla’s mother and I to make choices that prioritized our ability to be available as much as possible during those first two years.


I am still learning about the ways my experience as a child influences my approach to parenting as I try to make conscious choices about how I might want to give Isla a different experience than what my parents gave me.


Parenting by Connection


Hand in Hand Parenting” aims to help parents remain engaged and connected while setting the limits their children need through reasonable expectations. This approach helps children develop good judgment as well as other long-term benefits including a solid parent-child connection, emotional intelligence, and resilience.


Setting clear and healthy boundaries in a warm and loving way is an essential practice that I have found both deeply challenging and rewarding and is relevant across all my relationships including with my friends, family, work colleagues, and myself.


Emotional Intelligence


My training as an Emotional Intelligence coach reveals parenting as an intensive opportunity for practice in all four of the key domains: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management.


Being responsible for another human’s wellbeing has opened up new dimensions of my emotional landscape. While Isla would probably be really excited if life was always just rainbows and unicorns, I want to help her understand that all of our emotions are okay and model effective ways of self-regulating, communicating, and supporting others when challenging emotions inevitably show up.


Children can also provide an amazing mirror of the gaps in our own emotional development. Like most children, Isla is sensitive, observant, and quick to give voice to what she is noticing without the filters of the social conditioning that adults have developed.


Without hesitation or judgment she will say things like “Why do you sound angry?” or “I can tell you’re not listening,” or “Get off your phone.”


Her reflections help me understand how my emotions and behavior affect our relationship. By using my emotional balance skills to regulate any defensive reactions, I can acknowledge the impact on her and make adjustments.


Parenting in a Pandemic


The last few months have made parenting even more challenging in many ways. We have to work hard to manage our own stress, stay present and cheerful, keep her safe and happy, and find developmentally appropriate ways to talk about difficult topics.


But the pandemic has also brought an opportunity for more time and connection with Isla and with that, a deepening of our relationship.


One of the greatest gifts I have received from Isla is a great excuse for serious play. Her teachers often say that “a child’s work is their play” - it is their primary mechanism for learning about themselves, others, and the world.


Playing with Isla is more than just fun - it’s a great way to learn by seeing through the eyes and imagination of a child, and it’s also a huge relief to let go of the burden of adulthood for a few moments and reconnect with my own innocence, wonder, and silliness.


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