Building a trustworthy, healthy, relatively conflict-free relationship with our children is a top priority for parents. And learning how to negotiate the changes our children go through as they mature, and determining the line between letting them go and keeping them safe are concerns that most parents have.
Children in the elementary age range are going through a tremendous change in their development. As kindergarteners, they mastered independence for the first time. As they get older, socially, they begin to incorporate their family values and cultural belief systems into their relational styles with peers at school.
Cognitively, they are more emotionally secure, demonstrate more complex thinking and begin to engage in perspective taking. They begin to use more social skills as they prepare to take on more independent roles, and they love to imitate grown-up activities. Their relationship needs are about wanting and needing positive, consistent attention from adults as they experiment with new behaviors in new settings.
During this time, parents may notice their child becoming more curious, inventive, impulsive and giving. School becomes more important, so the focus of the relationship may shift to an achievement-oriented dynamic. That’s OK. The important thing is to not become so focused on achievement that you begin lose sight of your child and only focus on accomplishments.
If positive interaction only occurs when an achievement or goal is met, the relationship can lose its warm quality and take on a task-managerial tone. Both children and parents can find this exhausting and they may begin to avoid each other rather than seek each other out, which can lead to alienation during a time when the parent-child relationship can be fun.
Be a positive role model and demonstrate appropriate communication patterns.
Play with them. Play according to their rules, allow them to lead and use their imagination. This type of play is critical in building caring, secure relationships between the parent and the child.
Educate them about gender roles, culture, religion, race and ethnicity in order to build trust, respect and open communication about important topics.
Teach them about safety, expectations and family rules.
Point out their creativity and positive behaviors. This will increase positive behaviors and create authentic self-esteem.
Develop rituals and special times focused on parent-child bonding time. Create “daddy and me” or “mommy and me” play times once a week or once every other week. Let them choose the activity and follow their lead.
Help them develop a sense of right and wrong. Talk about respectful behaviors and answer questions openly and honestly.
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