By Erica Sourtzis, RSW, Youth Program Coordinator, Serenity Renewal for Families
As the weather warms up and the school year comes to a close, summer beckons. It is a time of year filled with possibilities for shared family time. With the season of barbeques, camping, sporting events and holidays fast approaching, so are the opportunities to bolster important family bonds. We know that no matter the age, any opportunity to nurture attachment with our children is an opportunity to promote their emotional and mental well-being.
At a recent session on Children and Mental Health,Dr. Phil Ritchie, Child Psychologist at CHEO, offered many pearls of wisdom on the subject – some of whichI will share here. It is well known by experts that the single most important factor in developing resilience in young loved-ones is to provide a sense of belonging to our children and for them to know that they have people supporting them that they can rely on.
Parent-child relationships are the model for all other relationships, and although attachment begins at birth, it must continue to be nurtured throughout the lifespan. Granted, this can become challenging as they grow into adolescents and turn elsewhere to meet those attachment needs (although peers are often unstable sources). There can also be the interference of modern technology dividing attention. Finding a balance is key and remembering that as parents our role remains vital in developing their sense of “mattering” and believing that they can make a difference in the world around them.
Listed below are ways that attachment with children can be strengthened. It may be that some of these have already become convention in your home. If so, take a well-deserved moment to pat yourself on the back! If some are new to you, why not take the time this season to seed some new beginnings and enjoy the bloom!
- Take an interest: what makes them tick?
- Cooperate in parenting: give them a voice, share decision making, and hold family meetings.
- Catch them being good!
- Model healthy coping skills, self-regulation and self-care.
- Talk and listen! (Especially about the difficult topics). Ask open-ended questions. Invite challenges to values as opportunity for discussion. Aim for one meaningful conversation a day.
- Build competence.
- Express affection – be sure to say it and show it!
- Limit screen time and keep it out of bedrooms.
- Eat meals together.
- Play and laugh together!
- Enlist their help (shared chores, cooking, baking).
- Get to know their friends.
- Model self-compassion to grow a stable sense of self-worth. This means treating yourself with the same kindness, care, and respect that you would treat those you care about and recognizing that all people are imperfect but learning.
- Practice gratitude.
Again, keep in mind that the time and energy that you take to engage with your children is an investment in your child’s long term emotional and mental well-being. If you are looking for additional support, Serenity Renewal for Families offers a variety of programs aimed at strengthening families and developing important life skills in children and youth.
Ericka Sourtzis counsels and facilitates children & youth programs for Serenity Renewal for Families, an Alta Vista Charity that assists families affected by addiction and other impactful issues. To learn more or to donate to families needing help, call (613) 523-5143 or visit serenityrenewal.ca