How to build an unbreakable bond with your child

By Katie Cincotta, ESBY

Life is busy. Did we remember to buy milk? Where are my school shoes? Who let the dog inside with those muddy paws? Sometimes it feels like we need more hours in the day just to get through the basics, let alone find quality time to read, draw, play and spend quality time with our kids. But the research shows that it’s those intimate moments with a book, or on a walk, talking and engaging face-to-face, that helps build a strong bond between parent and child.

It’s that connection that will be a child’s most powerful experience of love and build the foundations and predictors of their future success. So here are some ideas for how to make an unbreakable connection with your child.

1. Art

Exploring art with your child, watching their little brains absorb all the colourful details of a painting or a picture book – is a precious way to ignite connection. Part of my inspiration as a mural artist is to foster that creative attachment – to conjure a scene that lights up a child’s face and invites them to dive into another world and all its possibilities. To give the Peek-a-view paintings a photo realistic depth, I use the 3D effect of the Trompe l’oeil art technique, so that you feel like you’re looking through a window.

Exploring that window to the world is a conversation starter with a never-ending story. Who are these characters? Where do they live? How do they feel? Young children often find it hard to articulate complex emotions, but art offers a visual focus that frees us to be creative and open up about our feelings. A child who experiences that secure early attachment grows up to be an emotionally capable and resilient adult rather than an anxious person who doesn’t cope well with life’s setbacks.

2. Books

I love the feel of a book in my hand. I love the closeness you get snuggled up and reading the bounded pages of wonder. But reading a book together seems sadly ‘old school’, with kids becoming increasingly glued to smartphones, tablets and gaming consoles.

As a result, we’re losing a vital chance to build meaningful and personal connections. Research shows there are benefits to the physical flipping of pages versus the flippant swipe of a touch screen.

One study by The Independent showed an increase in the warmth of parent-child interactions, such as more laughter, more smiling, and more demonstrations of affection when children were reading a story from a book rather than a screen.

Another study found digital reading can be distracting, with young children spending almost half their time playing games in interactive e-books. Not only did they read less of the story, they remembered and understood less. So, don’t shelve the books just yet. Those stories into faraway lands don’t just stimulate the brain; they’re pulling you together as a family.

3. Ritual

A ritual can be a beautiful way to bond with your family and create a sense of belonging. It could be something as simple as playing board games on a Sunday night, or planting bulbs to come up in the spring. It just has to have meaning that ties you together.

For children at primary school, it could be a scrapbooking project that you do together – reflecting back on the important events and milestones of the year in a visual collage.

Or maybe it’s a ‘no phones’ rule when you’re having dinner, so you can give each other your full attention. Whatever traditions you choose, the point is to enjoy a shared experience, something you do together to cement your bond – so that as your children grow up, no matter what happens, they will always feel tethered to you – like a trusted anchor, grounding them with steadfast support.

Note: The views and advice expressed on this blog post are those of the author and are not representative of the Pregnancy Babies & Children's Expo.

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