Connecting with the children under your care

When I support parents and carers, I spend a lot of time talking about ‘connection’. How we physically and emotionally connect with our child is so important for well-being and development, not just for our child but us too.

During the day, we can reconnect in many ways but at night time, babies and children separate from us. As soon as their eyes close, we are no longer visible to them and they become more anxious; this is when “resistance” happens. Children will say things such as: ‘I need another drink’; ‘I need a cuddle’; or ‘One more book’. All these delaying tactics can become really frustrating, particularly at the end of the day when all you really want to do is to chill, get something to eat and spend time with a partner.

At this time of the day, children need reassurance to feel safe and secure. What can happen, however, is that the more they delay the more we tend to rush the routine. This behaviour then adds to the stress for both sides. Instead, what we should do is to continue the connection and help with the day/night transition.

A father reading a story book to his child
Photo by Picsea on Unsplash

My 5 Top Tips for connecting with your child

  1. Ensure there has been a lot of connection during the day: time where you have been on a 1-1 with your child. This should be completely focused time where your child can lead the activity and you are away from any distractions. Distractions include checking your mobile phone, browsing on your tablet and taking phone calls. Do something together that is fun and builds positive memories. I try to incorporate a ‘snuggle time’ every afternoon where child and parent can just be together. Obviously, spending quality time together throughout the day help builds up the connections which help when separation does occur. For parents who work, try to find ways of connecting with your child even if you are not always there. For example, you could record yourself reading a bedtime story when you are not present or write ‘love letters’ and leave them under your child’s pillow.
  2. Have time at bedtime to talk about the fun things you will be doing tomorrow. Share what you are looking forward to and how you will spend time together.
  3. Let your child know you will keep checking in on them at night. One suggestion is to leave small cut-out hearts, give your child a few at bedtime and then say you will leave more love hearts during the night. Pop some in to the room once your child is asleep. Another suggestion is to have a family photo album available to your child so that they can see your face at any time.
  4. Give your child something belonging to you (although make sure you check the safety labels) and ask them to look after it until the morning. Something with your scent on can be positive, such as a t-shirt or a cuddly toy you own.
  5. If you have been co-sleeping and wish to now transition to the child having their own bed, I always recommend moving to the child’s own room and having a parent sleeping next to them all night for about a week before you move on to further separation. Take it slow and steady.