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Want to know the secret to being a good parent? Your relationship with them.

I am a new dad – my daughter is nearly 4 years old – and despite the knowledge that I have from working with parents and young people, I often find myself at a bit of a loss as to what is the “right” thing to do in terms of my parenting decisions. A LOT of people joked when my daughter was born that I should be an expert and have a perfect child. Our reality? She is perfectly imperfect! She is a little person, with all the things that little people have: big emotions, a wide-eyed curiosity about the world, dysregulated, learning, connecting and developing her own unique personality.

What my experience has allowed me to do is to keep coming back to the most basic element of parenting: developing a growing and strengthening relationship with my daughter. There are plenty of parenting techniques, ideas, principles, and concepts – and we all need those at various times – but when I’m stuck, and when I’m a bit lost in my parenting journey, I try and come back to: how do I connect with my daughter. What does that look like in practice?

– Connection doesn’t need to be complicated, and it doesn’t need to be fancy. Engaging with your child on things they are interested in is a wonderful way to see into their minds and hearts

– Accept that you are not going to get it “right” a bunch of the time. As soon as you can realise you got a situation wrong, seek to repair it. That might be an apology, a hug, a comment to demonstrate you were aware that you made a mistake. This is all modelling.

– When you are with your children, try to make sure that there is as much time as you can afford to spend where your attention is focused on them (not your phone, not the myriad of errands to get onto)

– Try to keep yourself emotionally regulated. A big blow up is absolutely recoverable, but it is better to avoid it if you can. Taking your time and space – where you can – in a moment will preserve that relationship longer term, even if it means needing to take yourself away to recoup.

Parenting is a wonderful and demanding experience. When we pour ourselves into our young people, we create something that both preserves and grows who we are, and who they can become.

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At ConnectEd, we believe that all families, and the communities they belong to, benefit from a little extra care and support. Whether the problems are big or small, we want to make sure everyone has the chance to feel connected – to themselves, to others and to their community. If you need some support, get in touch here: www.connectedcc.com.au

(Written by Dr Matt O’Connor)

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