It takes more than just providing a roof over their head and food on the table to be close to your child.
The basic needs of a child will differ according to their age and include feeling safe, secure and loved unconditionally – over and above their physical needs.
So, there is no substitute for putting in the time to build an emotional connection.
To raise a confident, well-adjusted child who will go out into the world as a capable and responsible adult, it’s important to also meet their emotional needs, says Claudia Abelheim, an educational psychologist with The Family Life Centre in Johannesburg.
“By meeting their emotional needs, children learn to trust other people, to trust the world around them, to have empathy, and that their emotions are important,” Claudia adds.
She says building a bond with your child will help improve their self-esteem and sense of self.
“It’s important for children to feel that connection and unconditional love from their parents so they grow up believing they are worthy of good things happening to them.”
Read more | Ten ways to love your newborn
Consistency is key
Life is busy so you might be tired when you get home from work and feel you don’t have time.
The good news is that it’s the quality of the time you spend with your child that matters, not the amount.
Claudia explains that it’s through consistency of actions that children learn to trust and feel safe and secure.
“Even an hour of bonding time per week is okay, as long as it’s consistent. If it is inconsistent, children will blame themselves and think there’s something wrong with them.”
Tips for consistency
Chat with your child while you drive them to and from school. If you don’t take them to school, talk to them at the dinner table and find out how their day went.
Read a bedtime story to them every night.
Do activities with your child that are age-appropriate, like teatime with their dolls, playing outside or watching their favourite cartoon together.
If they are older and into electronics, play a game with them or let them teach you how to use the features on your phone.
Victorine Mbong Shu is a mother of four and an author who has learnt to make time for her family during their everyday activities.
“We make sure we do most after-school things together. For example, when we sit or talk together, we give each person time to talk. Depending on the subject, we start off with the youngest child because the younger children’s attention spans are naturally shorter.
“Life and work mean we have to plan the week ahead. Every opportunity for us is a bonding process.”
Tips for planning
Plan a weekly activity with your child like a walk in the area, washing your car, shopping or going out for an ice cream.
Write the time and date in your diary.
Keep your word or let them know ahead of time if something comes up.
Read more | Dads play an important role
The effects of not bonding with your child
When you don’t bond effectively with your child, your communication breaks down, says managing director of Life Talk Forum, Izabella Little-Gates.
“Good communication is essential. You get to hear what they’re doing, what they’re worried about and what they’re experiencing. Knowing what they’re up to, what peer pressure they might be under and what challenges they might be exposed to then enables you to guide them through it all,” she says.
Without bonding it becomes harder for your child to respect you and it becomes very hard to convey your values, thoughts and guidelines to your child, Izabella cautions.
“Without your guidance, it becomes much easier for your child to rely on his or her peers for life’s lessons on key aspects such as morality, sexual conduct or abstinence, alcohol, drugs or bullying.”
Izabella says bonding helps establish boundaries.
“Children and teens will become rebellious. Adolescence is a time where teens tend to push the boundaries, so it’s essential they know what those boundaries are and what the consequences might be if they break them,” she says.