Building a relationship with your child

Laughing, playing, having fun, loving and being loved. These are the things people think about when considering becoming parents. Most parents want to enjoy a close relationship with their children. For children, developing a trusting relationship between themselves and their parent or main caregiver, is necessary for healthy development.

The most important emotional task for a child during their early years is attaching to their main caregivers, usually their parents. This means children need to develop trust that their parents are people who will meet their needs. From this basis, children are in a strong position to be able to take advantage of other learning opportunities as they grow. Promoting relationships with your own child is therefore important for his or her development as well as for the mutual enjoyment of parent and child.


Relationships with babies are formed through having eye contact while the baby’s needs are being met, for instance, while feeding. Through this experience the child learns that his or her parents provide comfort and help them feel better. All it takes is to use everyday opportunities to build a relationship. Smiling, laughing and talking when nappies are changed or any other activity that helps the child feel more comfortable, is helpful. Comforting the child through stroking, patting or cuddling is a useful way to promote attachment. Gazing into the eyes of a young baby, talking to them with an expressive manner and waiting for a response leads to babies mimicking the expression of their parents. This is enjoyable for both as well as relationship building.


As babies become toddlers, they enjoy mobility and begin to develop independence. Parents need to develop a balance between how much independence to allow and what boundaries to impose.

Having a predictable environment helps children develop stronger relationships with their parents. Learning that parents are reliable is helpful for children. This is a stage where again, meeting the child’s gaze while their needs are being met is helpful in building the relationship. It is useful to get your child to look at you when you are talking to or teaching them something. Toddlers like to laugh and play delightful games. Having fun and sharing these experiences with your toddler promotes the relationship.


With pre-schoolers, using routine and predictable expectations helps them feel secure in the relationship and safe in the environment. Playing and spending time with their parents, talking, doing chores and simply being in the presence of each other are all useful ways of promoting the relationship. There is a place for special activities but it is the day-to-day experience of life that provides opportunities to build the foundations of the relationship.

Developing a relationship between parents and children comes naturally to many parents and occurs through everyday experiences. Being present with your child and in tune with their emotions and experiences builds the relationship. Individual children are responded to according to their own needs and parents own style. Parents know their children best and it is important to trust your own sense of what is right for developing a relationship with your child.

Invest in the relationship and enjoy your children. If you do have any difficulties, consult a professional. A psychologist or social worker is well placed to provide assistance. 

By Bronwyn Thomas