Interpersonal relationships are an integral part of human existence. In our lifetime, we develop and maintain many such relationships at many levels. But the foundation of all these relationships is laid in childhood. The primary social relationship that any child develops is with his/her parents.
This is the base, which determines the life course of all future relationships that he/she will have. If this relationship is strong and healthy, the likelihood of other healthy relationships increases.
Trust, confidence, patience respect, empathy are all values, which a child develops as a result of a healthy parent-child relationship. The concept of IQ is slowly being replaced with the concept of EQ and these are precisely some of the values that contribute to a higher EQ.
Today’s educated parents are aware of all these facts at a theoretical level but often stumble on a practical level. What is it that parents can do so that their children are able to develop healthy relationships?
Across all ages and across all relationships, one common factor that is common in healthy relationships is effective communication. Parents especially need to reach out to their children and keep channels of communication open at all times. The manner may differ depending on the age of the child. Being physically there for your child is the most important thing that a parent can do.
But along with the physical presence, emotional presence is crucial. Working parents may not be able to spend long periods with their children on weekdays. But when they are home, they should have at least 30 minutes of ‘child only’ time. This is a sacrosanct period between parent and child. No call, email, message or chore is as important as this.
Preferably as soon as a working parent reaches home, he/she needs to drop everything outside the door and let only the parent in him/her enter. Keep the phones and laptops away and engage with your child depending on his or her age. It could be anything from jumping and dancing, playing ball, or chess, sharing jokes or just chatting about the day. This ‘child only’ time makes a child feel loved and love makes one feel secure.
If parents want their children to inculcate values like trust and respect, parents must start by respecting and trusting their children. When parents treat their children with respect, children reciprocate and not only with their parents, but such remarkable learners that they are, they transfer this respect to all other relationships too.
Please do not confuse this respect towards a child with treating a child like a princess and making her believe that she is the only important being in this universe. Respect is being attentive to your child, making eye contact with him/her while talking to him/her, listening to him/her, being empathetic towards the child and not humiliating him/her.
Parents may not have the quantity time to spend with their children but they can surely improvise on the quality. A walk till the school bus in the morning could be turned to a play, quiz or story time. Travel times are the best bonding times.
Long journeys can make young children irritable but if these can be turned into play times (from counting the blue cars to atlas games, depending on the age of the child), these can be the most fun times in addition to the learning that happens and memories that are created for a lifetime.
Development occurs on a variety of parameters like, cognitive, motor, socio-emotional, etc. We often focus on cognitive and motor areas considering them to be crucial and ignore the socio-emotional or moral aspects.
But for a healthy society of tomorrow, appropriate socio-emotional development of today’s generation is critical.This will happen only if children understand what healthy relationships are. The onus is finally on today’s parents to teach their children that cooperation is more important than winning, that money cannot buy friendship and materialistic pleasures cannot give the joy that comes from being with loved ones.