Linda Lewis Griffith

How to foster close, loving bonds with our children

Parents should foster close, loving bonds with each of their children regardless of the unique challenges the youngsters present.
Parents should foster close, loving bonds with each of their children regardless of the unique challenges the youngsters present. TNS/The Seattle Times

Each of our kids has a unique personality. Just ask any parent who’s had more than one child. Even when youngsters are the same gender, they still relate to their worlds in completely different ways.

For instance, one infant may love to cuddle in her mother’s arms. But her twin brother squirms to get free if he’s held for more than five seconds. One child might be a straight-A student; another struggles with academics and prefers to spend her time on the playground.

The differences are compounded if there are physical or behavioral challenges that necessitate extra attention. A son diagnosed with autism will require much more parental effort and time than his siblings who don’t have a developmental disorder.

This trend continues as offspring grow. A parent may share a common interest with one adult son and not another. One grown child may get in trouble with the law or repeatedly make foolish decisions, while her brothers and sisters go on to college and get high-paying jobs.

Parents frequently struggle with this disparity. They inherently want to treat each of their children equally. They even feel guilty if they secretly enjoy one of their offspring more than another.

But such differing relationships are normal. In fact, it’s impossible to treat two children exactly the same. You can give each of your offspring the same gifts and introduce them to the very same opportunities. They will still respond to them in their unique manner.

Of course, the love we feel for our children doesn’t vary. Most of us would willingly donate a kidney or step in front of a bus if it meant protecting their lives.

The question is not how to treat all children equally. Rather, it’s how to foster close, loving bonds with each of our youngsters regardless of the challenges they present.

How to develop a close relationship with each of our children

  • Be kind to yourself. You don’t have to be a perfect parent. It’s normal that you have a different relationship with each of your children.
  • Accept your offspring unconditionally. Stop wishing that they were different. Embrace every facet of their personalities and behavior, no matter how difficult or displeasing.
  • Focus on their strengths. Too often we’re obsessed with our kids’ shortcomings. But all children have areas in which they excel. Start pointing out things you like. Recall times when you were beaming with pride. It will redirect your attention and make youngsters feel great.
  • Find enjoyable activities. Look for ways you can have fun together. Pleasant outings and experiences create positive feelings and lifelong memories you can share for years to come.
  • Enlist the help of other adults who can connect with your child. Kids who are challenging for one person can be a breeze for someone else. Perhaps a neighbor who builds model airplanes loves working with your son in his shop. Or a woman at the local stable allows your daughter to help care for the horses.