Intimacy is often the cornerstone of any romantic relationship. So, why do we neglect and overlook intimacy when it comes to the parent-child relationship?
For many people, intimacy is a scary word. Typically it is not a word we use when we refer to relationships with our children. Intimacy isn’t solely important in romantic relationships. Parent-child relationships are often the first place healthy intimacy is practiced and established.
When we intentionally create time to spend with our children, we increase the chances of building healthy communication, trustful interactions, and genuine intimacy with them.
I’m not talking about those stressful moments at the kitchen table doing homework. I’m talking about just being with them without distractions. Consider spending time with your child doing something fun, preferably an activity he or she picks and enjoys. When we spend little to no one-on-one time with our children, we lose the opportunity to build intimacy.
Many parents can admit that much of the time spent with their child is in transition, driving them from one place to another. Circumstances also make it difficult to be alone with our children. Whether it is another family member or close friend, another person is often present.
Between work hours, school, extra-curricular activities, and sleep, we don’t have many awake hours with our kiddos. Of those hours, how many do we spend giving them concentrated one-on-one attention to them? Possibly very little.
Because the parent-child relationship is often the first place healthy intimacy is practiced and established, parents must deliberately create time to hang out with their children. There are many types of intimacy and it is important to build all of them with our children at any age.
Healthy Parent-Child Relationships Require These 4 Types of Intimacy
Hanging out with your child is experiential intimacy. It involves finding time to be together doing things that you enjoy. So, set aside time for your child.
It could be 30 minutes playing a board or video game, a girl’s day out at the spa, or hiking in the mountains. Whatever the activity, try to do something that your child enjoys or picks. If you have more than one child, try to spend time with one child at a time without other distractions or interruptions.
Through experiential intimacy, you create more space to develop other types of intimacy with your child-like physical, emotional, and intellectual intimacy.
Physical intimacy, such as hugs and pats on the back, is an important aspect of human connection and we all need it. Healthy physical connection is a huge part of brain and relationship development.
Physical intimacy helps your child create healthy boundaries. It also develops their ability to appropriately show affection to others.
Emotional intimacy involves sharing your thoughts and feelings with another person and parent-child relationships are no exception!
Don’t be afraid to have conversations with your child. When we share our innermost thoughts and feelings with another person, we learn how to develop vulnerability. This helps your child become comfortable being open and vulnerable in your parent-child relationship as well as other interpersonal relationships.
Emotional intimacy also creates a space for your child to see you be open and show vulnerability as you share your thoughts and feelings. You can encourage emotional sharing by asking open-ended questions and listening without judgment or trying to “fix it”. Acceptance is a big part of emotional intimacy.
Sharing ideas and thoughts about things that are important to you is intellectually intimacy. As a parent, this can help you become more connected to what is important in your child’s life. This also helps you understand more about their identity development.
Our children have thoughts and opinions, likes and dislikes. Sometimes those opinions are very different from ours. It is important to give them a space to express their opinions without judgment.
Intellectual intimacy helps develop healthy debate skills and respect for differences. It also creates opportunities to discover more about how your child thinks.
Intimacy brings us closer to the ones we love. Spending time with your child helps them practice and established many types of healthy intimacy. Be intentional and find some time to hang out with your child! Let us know what you do to improve your parent-child relationship!