Beyond Horizons

Child-Parent Relationship and Lifestyle Choices (Part- 2)

The most effective form of developing a healthy understanding of children and their social media usage begins with consciously initiating a close and loving parental-child relationship.

A conscious limit of social media and prioritising quality time with children can foster social media control and enhanced bonding time with our children to discuss their day and concerns. Children enjoy their parents’ attention, communication, and expressing their feelings and concerns, and social media usage threatens this critical family activity. The innate desire to belong to a group or community – including a family, fosters crucial wellness and well-being. The belonging and love experienced in the early years also inculcate tenacity and resilience to cope with life and challenges in adulthood.

My colleague Anjali* experience is an example of a revelation regarding understanding the tenacity promoted by the solid foundation of unconditional love and care of family in our early years. When Anjali’s* marriage broke down, she admitted that if it had not been for the tremendous security, comfort, and confidence she had experienced from her loving parents when she grew up, she would have found it very hard to cope with the effect of her loveless marriage. The close bond she had enjoyed with her parents and family was a great blessing to cope with the stress of her traumatic marital relationship with her spouse.

The emergence of rejection, low confidence, and lack of trust can all arise from a lack of strong and stable childhood years and a sense of belonging. The resulting impact on communication and social, and behavioural skills can also create unwarranted anxiety and a lack of motivation to overcome life hurdles. For parents, building a close relationship with children begins with setting examples of desired and positive behaviour. So how can parents create a closer bond and trust in their relationship with their children?

The first step is communicating the importance of building connectivity with others – engage, interact, respect, and be gracious. It may appear easy, but the critical factor is for parents to ask themselves whether they differentiate the level of care and regard from person to person. A child observing this discrimination is likelier to learn that everyone does not deserve respect but is selectively shown based on various superficially perceived variables.

Practising mindfulness is the next step in enabling children to understand how to recognise a sense of being loved and cherished. The extent of interest and enthusiasm parents show in their interactions in communication with their children and their friends or others often shapes their personal, social and professional relationships. Making the sincere effort to know, understand and respond to others is a conscious process, not an automatic one. Mindful parenting includes sharpening our listening skills too. Listening here plays a vital role since children at a young age especially will have many observations and concerns about their day to narrate, hence making the time to listen to them and respond to them with patience and understanding plays a valuable role in building a close parent-child bonding. The unconditional love that some children receive from parents promotes an understanding of the concept of acceptance in children. When parents teach children about unconditional love, children also get familiar with the importance of acknowledging that everyone is different, none of us is perfect, yet we look for positive and appreciable qualities in each other. Acceptance of others will also promote the ability to be unbiased in children about the individual differences in people they come across.

The development of a long-lasting parental bond with children furthermore gets nurtured with timely discussions on what matters are to be kept in mind while maintaining values, integrity, and principles. I remember during my mid-teens when I would see the rare occasion of an individual noncommittedly opening a door with a smile without the expectation of gratitude; it used to bother me. My thoughts were always on how impertinent many of the receivers are as they walk away, barely acknowledging the kindness they receive. Discussing my observations at home, I was conveyed the value of compassion in doing any deed. Admittedly, it took me years to understand the wisdom behind altruistic gestures. Selfless goodwill gestures are often learned in the family environment – especially from parents or caregivers. Understanding this nurtures children’s compassion and humility, tolerance, empathy, and sensitivity for the welfare of others and those less fortunate.

Amongst all the techniques that parents can implement to develop a healthy and close relationship with their child, the tool of Role modelling is by far one of the best. Parents are rebuked time and time again about the importance of discipline in a child’s growth. Yet how many of us think of disciplining ourselves before we discipline our children regarding the behaviour we are trying to improve? E.g., I’ve observed that in the urge to enable their child to adapt socially, during a visit for dinner at a colleague/friend’s place, some parents “encourage” their child to complement a host regarding a dish that a child may not have enjoyed. Why encourage this apparent duplicity in a child when a gracious thank you to the host is sufficient? Parents hence become unknowingly responsible for their children lying in the future when they unwittingly encourage their children to acknowledge that lying is acceptable based on the situation.

The best way is to be a positive role model for our children as much as possible. When children observe parents say one thing and do something else, children immediately sense the hypocrisy and lack of consistency in disciplining them. The first step for parents to promote a healthy and safe home environment for a child to learn what is right and what is not desirable is to be mindful. If the child needs to value family time and close bonding, the parent needs to reflect on the desired behaviour with them. By making time for the family and loving family time, the parent can instil the importance of prioritisation in life. More importantly, parents teach children the significance of work-life balance in life.

Whenever I discuss family time, my thoughts often go back to my childhood days when weekends would be eagerly awaited for two reasons. Firstly, we (my brother and I) get to sleep in my parent’s room the day before it is the weekend and listen to Dad’s magical bedtime stories of bravery, wit, and compassion. Secondly, the morning after, we would enjoy Dad’s thin golden masala omelettes breakfast with toasted bread, butter and jam topped with freshly squeezed orange juice. The breakfast session included four of us – especially Dad and Mom bantering and teasing each other about their cooking abilities! Some weekends would see us exploring the East Coast of the U.A.E, its beautiful beaches and enjoying our lunch in small unambiguous roadside cafeterias serving delicious food served by friendly waiters with whom Dad would enjoy conversing and getting to know. He would put them at ease by asking about their home, family, children and how long they have been away from their families. By the time we left, they would warmly welcome us to return soon.

Dad is no more, yet the memories he had made and that we had made as a family, especially during my childhood, continue to influence, inspire, teach and promote resilience in my life today. Today, no matter what age we are or how technologically our world is, children’s first and most impactful factor will be their parents (or caregivers). And today, as in the past, children imbibe behaviour and actions from parents consciously and unconsciously, absorbing and evaluating – learning from every interaction and memory they have of them.

Hence for would-be parents, the consciousness of learning and unlearning is critical to be the best version they can be as parents and be effective role models to their children. Given the myriad of tempting influences children are exposed to, this need has never been more crucial and imperative than today.

*Name changed to protect privacy

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