Just like that, the Christmas gift-buying season is here once again. Stores are gearing up for sales and promos, and parents are looking out for the hottest toys to wrap up under the tree. While it's a tradition in many households, Christmas shopping for some parents has a tinge of guilt.
“As mothers and fathers devote more time to work, a sense of guilt also colors parent-child relations… Consequently, many overcompensate,” said Steven Mintz, Ph.D., executive director of the University of Texas System’s Institute for Transformational Learning, in an article for Psychology Today.
Buying expensive toys, scheduling costly family activities, or booking out-of-town trips are a few common ways parents try to make up for the times they come home late or too exhausted from work. These make great special treats, but bonding is really achieved through the seemingly small, quiet, everyday moments in your and your child’s life.
Research from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2007, for example, found that children valued “regular moments more than the elaborate, scheduled, ‘fun’ occasions,” reported Quartz.
“Everyday activities (like household chores or running errands) may afford families quality moments, unplanned, unstructured instances of social interaction that serve the important relationship-building functions that parents seek from ‘quality time,'” read the study led by Tamar Kremer-Sadlik, a professor of anthropology.
Other experts agree as well. Denise Pope, senior lecturer at Stanford University and co-founder of Challenge Success, advocates daily parent-child bonding. According to Pope, even 20 or 25 minutes each day of quality time makes a huge difference. It benefits children when it comes to discipline, values formation, and overall well-being.
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Sadlik and his team also found that parents can easily pull off quality bonding time without any need to shell out cash. The secret? Put in the effort to connect.
It's enough just to stop and take an interest in whatever has caught your child's interest whenever you're together. Pay attention to what your child is doing, and ask him questions about it. If your child is deliberately trying to engage you, even if it's just to show you a rock he found on the ground, don't let the opportunity pass you by! Crouch down with him to take a closer look.
Said the researchers, “amidst everyday life moments, parents can find numerous opportunities to attend to their children, connect with shared interests, and have loving, caring moments.”
Every parent should feel reassured and comforted by this truth: all your kids need is you, mom. And, in case you have doubts, experts and researchers agree that creating a secure parent-child connection does not have to cost a single centavo.