You may feel emotionally distant from your child for many reasons — but certain things can help you rebuild your parent-child bond.
As a parent, feeling emotionally distant from your child can leave you feeling inadequate at best.
When we become parents, we’re supposed to feel an immediate bond with our children. But what if that doesn’t happen? And what if you’re close one day, but the next day they’re avoiding your eye contact?
The connection between you and your child can be fragile at times. Though it may seem challenging to overcome, there are ways to rebuild your bond into a healthy, loving relationship.
Parental influence is essential to the development and functioning of a child.
When parents are emotionally available and connected with their kids, they can provide a healthy attachment. This gives the kid a greater opportunity for them to thrive in all aspects of life.
The bond between the parent and child — or lack thereof — can affect their:
- language development
- cognitive abilities
- ability to adjust to the world around them
In contrast, if a parent is emotionally unavailable, the child may encounter developmental difficulties, both mentally and physically.
- cognitive development
- adjusting socially
- regulating their emotions
According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, poor treatment in childhood can negatively affect their early brain development, leading to challenging behaviors later in life.
With time and intentional effort, it’s possible to strengthen and rebuild your connection with your child.
There are many reasons why you may feel disconnected from your child. Here are a few habits that can contribute to emotional distance from your child:
1. Screen time
Many people in the United States spend hours each day looking at screens, either on their phones scrolling on social media, watching TV, or looking at a computer.
When people spend this much time consumed with technology and electronics, it’s easy to neglect the needs of the household, including the children.
People can get into a cycle of emotional unavailability when they continue scrolling or hitting the next episode button instead of addressing a child’s needs and questions.
Ever hear the saying, “You can’t pour from an empty cup”? Well, it’s true.
In order to be there for your child physically, emotionally, and mentally, it’s important that you take care of yourself first.
If we neglect ourselves, this neglect can often pour over into our daily lives. Working overtime or spending hours on household responsibilities can wear you down.
And if you can’t recognize your own needs when it’s time to rest and disengage, then your kids may not expect you to be there for them when it’s their time of need.
In a culture that’s always awaiting the next best thing, we often view gadgets and gifts to express how we feel about our loved ones, especially our children.
Giving our kids that latest gaming system or the new doll other kids are raving about shows just how much we love them, right? However, replacing affection with material objects can lead to a disconnect.
4. You vs. them
As parents, we like to vicariously live through our children — and to an extent, that’s OK.
If our children like the same sports or hobbies that we did as kids, it can provide a great opportunity for bonding.
However, putting unreasonable demands on our kids because their interests and thoughts don’t align with ours can lead to emotional detachment.
If you want to find ways to reconnect with your child, here are a few tips to get you started:
1. Unplug from the electronics
Consider putting down your phone or taking a break from the computer screen to give your child your undivided attention. When they see that they are your focus, it will be easier for them to feel supported and heard.
2. Plan one-on-one time
Quality time is essential for emotional connectedness. The more you do things together, the more you’ll become in tune with each other’s thoughts, needs, and desires. This is a great way to practice self-care, too.
Ideally, the activity will be something either chosen by the child or something that you know they are passionate about, whether it’s:
- a board game they love
- arts and crafts
- getting ice cream and going for a walk
3. Listen without judgment
It’s easy as adults to say been there, done that, and I know better. However, when you listen empathetically, you create a safe place for your child to express their feelings without fear of repercussions or retaliation. You become their safe place.
4. Express interest in them
Ask questions about their hobbies, what their favorite thing about school is, what career they’d like to have, or where they’d like to travel. It may take some time, but if you put forth the effort of getting to really know them, they may just surprise you.
5. Try something new
What better way to form a connection than to tackle something you’ve never done before, together. Experiencing the thrills and excitement of a new adventure can create a sense of connection because of the vulnerability necessary when trying new things.
When we’re vulnerable in our relationships, it helps with growth and overall satisfaction.
Feeling disconnected from your child is a usual part of parenting. Although it leaves you questioning your abilities, with some time and effort, you can work on restoring your connection.
Excess screen time, neglecting your own needs, and replacing quality time with material things can contribute to the disconnect. Avoiding these behaviors can help reduce the chance of becoming emotionally distant from your child.
Allowing for adequate time to listen emphatically, spending time together as a family, and exploring new hobbies together can increase your connectedness and improve your relationships.