As adults, we can fondly reflect on the long, steamy summer days when we ran wild, barefoot, and free.
At the time, those days seemed to last forever.
Now that we’re grown, the dog days of summer are the same as any other season – the only difference being the soaring temperatures outside.
For kids, however, they’re still experiencing summer’s magic. Thankfully, there’s still time for us to have some summer bonding and dip into that magic before school starts and the days and nights grow colder.
One way to do that is to simply play with your child.
Experts point to the importance and effectiveness of play in creating long-lasting bonds between children and their caretakers. For instance, Dr. Kenneth R. Ginsburg et al. (2007) write about the right of children to play and how critical play is in a child’s developmental trajectory and their relationships with parents and caregivers.
Ginsburg et al. (2007) state, “When parents observe their children in play or join them in child-driven play, they are given a unique opportunity to see the world from their child’s vantage point as the child navigates a world perfectly created just to fit his or her needs.”
Engaging in play with your child provides the most benefits when children take the lead, as children have the instinct to follow an adult’s cues, thus stifling their creative flow, Ginsburg et al. (2007) assert. Child-led play allows kids to practice making decisions, follow their passions, and work at their own pace (Ginsburg et al., 2007).
It is essential when playing, experts say, to give full attention to the child as providing this kind of recognition paves the way for healthy future relationships.
Engaging in free play, or play without a defined structure, can also deepen bonds as parents, caregivers, and children chart an imaginary course of adventure together. This bond can also be created by taking on any new adventure, whether learning a new sport or dance or visiting a new hiking trail.
Sticking to routines can also improve relationships between children and caregivers or parents (Dorn, 2020). The comfort found in routines allows children to focus on enjoying other aspects of summer, such as engaging in fun activities with adults.
It is also essential to not only occupy the same physical space as a child but to engage meaningfully, i.e., without letting our phones or other technology distract us. Remember, these interactions color how the child will interact in the world. We want to set a good example for them.
Also, parents and caregivers can plan picnics at a new or fun spot.
Other non-activity-related and bond-strengthening measures include remembering to say “I love you” and reaching for physical reassurance through touch.
Lastly, a summer getaway can be an excellent time to bond.
In many ways, time away can allow for a more relaxed flow and the ability to slow down to appreciate one another without electronics.
The important thing, experts say, above all else, is to make sure your child knows you have a deep and sincere interest in them and their ideas. From there, you will watch your relationship blossom.
Managing relationships can be tricky. For more information on building healthy bonds or if you would like to speak to one of our experienced counselors, contact us here.
Dorn, P. (2020) 8 Ways to Strengthen a Parent-Child Relationship. [Blog] https://www.familyservicesnew.org/news/8-ways-to-strengthen-a-parent-child-relationship/
Ginsburg, K. R., Committee on Communications, and Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health. (2007) The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds. Pediatrics; 119 (1): 182–191. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2006-2697