Raising littles is one of the toughest and most fulfilling jobs in the world. The bond we build with our children develops over time from the moment they are born. What we do on the daily matters, even the simple daily practices.
To us, it’s just an ordinary day, but to them, it’s their whole childhood.
Growing bonds with our children is of utmost importance because it teaches them:
That they are safe, secure, and loved.
How to manage their feelings with confidence.
What a healthy relationship should look and feel like.
That they can approach the world with enthusiasm.
These 6 simple daily practices can help grow the bond with your littles this new year:
1. Start and End Their Days on a Good Note
In the morning
Make sure you greet your littles and embrace them when they wake up. What is the first thing you want them to hear in the morning? (Spoiler Alert: What you tell them will set the tone for their day). Some of mine are “Good morning, my love!” followed by “How’d you sleep?”, “I love you!”, “Are you ready for another awesome day?”, “Mommy missed you while you were asleep”, “I’m so happy to see you!”, “Who wants some yummy breakfast?”, or whatever comes from your mommy-heart to warmly greet them. The point is to get them to start their day with a smile on their face. This will enhance a positive attitude for them to have a better day, and, better yet, your day can also go much more smoothly with the dose of oxytocin!
In the night
Though every household has a different night routine, make it a part of the routine to tell your littles you love them before they go to sleep. Thank them for being good, and if they struggled to behave, thank them for trying their best. You can also practice some affirmations or simply tell them, “I am proud to be your mom.” In our household, we also pray as part of the night routine. In our prayer, we say, “Thank you, God, for (insert your littles’ names here).” The point is for your littles to end their night smoothly, feel loved, and know that you want them to have a good night’s sleep.
2. Pause and Take a Breath When Negative Feelings Are High
We all have those moments during the day, don’t we, mamas? The moments when we can’t unsee the mess in our home and the toys scattered everywhere. It feels hot all of a sudden and we hyperventilate for a second because we are having a hard time focusing with all the simultaneous sounds going around . . . or we can’t have a conversation with our spouse or take a call because all we hear is our littles arguing in the background. We get that sensory overload as moms, and our littles can feel it. As the imperfect mom that I am, when those feelings are high, I am immediately tempted to raise my voice (can any other mama relate?).
There’s something that I tell myself every time I feel like raising my voice: “It will only make us both feel worse.”
Empathy and compassion can help grow the bond with our littles. Sometimes all we need is a 5-minute breather to slow down and reconsider our approach when emotions are high. While you pause to take a breath, mama, remember that these strong feelings are visitors only. They come and go, and our littles are learning how to deal with these emotions by watching us, too. Eventually, this practice becomes second nature for both the mama and the littles, further growing the bond. And if you are an imperfect mom like me and end up raising your voice, it is okay. (I’ve been there.) It is also the perfect moment to teach them how to apologize when they make a mistake like mommy.
3. Limit Screen Time/Phubbing
Did you know that overuse of social media and mobile devices has been linked to eyestrain, difficulty focusing on other tasks, and depression? This goes for the whole family (mom, dad, and children). When we practice “phubbing” (this is the term for when we ignore our companion(s) to pay attention to our phone/technology device), it can make our littles feel ignored, and this can make them feel lonely, rejected, or depressed.
Turn Off the Screen, Turn on the Fun
We can’t avoid technology, but we can be smart about how (and how long) we use it around our littles. Though it can be tempting, mama, try putting your phone away when spending quality time with them, and if you must use it, give yourself a time limit. Prioritizing them can help grow the bond you have with them. As for the littles, I highly recommend following the AAP’s Guidelines on the use of technology depending on their age. (I’m not perfect at all, but this is what has helped me reduce scrolling.)
4. Listen to Them, Really Listen
I get it, sometimes OUR LITTLES CAN TALK. As a mama whose littles had speech delays, there have been times when I tell myself “Wow, can you believe this? To think they had a little trouble speaking at first.” But to be honest, I’ve made the awful mistake before of not truly listening to them, and one day as I reflected on this after a preaching I heard at church, I asked myself “How does this help me grow my bond with them?” It doesn’t.
If we don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell us the big stuff when they are big because to them it has always been big stuff.
By listening to our littles, we can help them to feel understood and able to cope. This can help us grow the bond we have with them. Pro-Tip: If you are a mama of many (like myself), try also to set some time aside to have those one-on-one conversations with each one of your littles with undivided attention.
5. Include Them in Daily Activities
This practice will grow the bond with your littles by making them feel important, needed, and loved.
Yes, sometimes the littles can slow us down, but what if that’s the whole point?
You can include them in everyday tasks like cooking, cleaning, or asking them to help you choose a movie. Ask them for their help and praise them when they do. Express your gratitude to them, make it a big deal, and tell them what great helpers they are. Make it known that you are proud of them and that they should also be proud of themselves.
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6. Eat Together
Sitting together, engaging in conversation, and enjoying the time while eating gives littles a sense of importance and something to look forward to. In our family of six, every mealtime is a time that is cherished. We like breaking bread together and as a mama, this helps me grow the bond with them while also raising them to be healthy eaters.
Research has shown that eating together as a family increases the likelihood of positive developmental benefits such as better health/eating habits, strong mental, emotional, and social skills, improved behavior, and better academic performance. The goal is to grow the bond with your littles while making family meals fun, connecting with them through conversation, and enjoying the time together.
Like any relationship, the bond between a mama and her littles can be made stronger with these simple practices as they can be easily incorporated into everyday routines.
Being a mama can be difficult, and there is no such thing as a perfect mother. But if you can provide a nurturing environment for your littles to grow up in while building your bond, then you’ll be helping them to have a great start in life. It’s a new year! Perfect time to start.
The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of El Paso Mom, its executive team, other contributors to the site, its sponsors or partners, or any organizations the aforementioned might be affiliated with.