Building strong connections with others is essential to life as a parent
For many parents, albeit mums in particular, feelings of loneliness and isolation as part of the parenthood journey come as a complete surprise. During the early stages, there is so much focus on the birth and the first month or two after you bring bub home that little thought is given to the reality of what your life will look like once you are caring for your child 24/7.
More than 90 percent of mums admit to feeling lonely after having their first child. Although prevalent, many first-time mothers keep their experience of loneliness to themselves; trying to hide their feelings from partners and other people in their life.
And the loneliness and isolation you feel as a parent (mum or dad) doesn’t necessarily go away as your kids grow up.
As busy parents, we often unintentionally invest less in our relationships with those around us as we focus on nurturing our children. This tends to happen much more with friends that either don’t have kids or have kids that are significantly older than yours. You may feel like you don’t have anything in common anymore, or that having to arrange catch-ups around your kids is too hard or burdensome for your friends.
Even if you’re a working parent, surrounded by co-workers every day, you can feel extremely lonely. As a working parent, you tend to want to be more productive so that you can leave work on time and get home to your kids. This reduces the time to chat about office happenings, which can also make you feel out of the loop. Even if you were to strike up a conversation with someone at work, outside interests and activities of your childless co-workers are likely to be very different from your own.
Being connected to others socially is widely considered by experts of psychology, neuroscience, and sociology as a fundamental human need. It is crucial to both wellbeing and survival.
As a parent, connecting with people and maintaining strong, positive friendships is essential to living a happier life. The old adage ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ holds an enormous amount of truth; you can’t go through parenthood alone.
Strengthening bonds with your partner, family members, friends and colleagues not only helps your relationships grow; it can also provide some added benefits to your wellbeing.
Here are 7 small actions that are proven to contribute to the strengthening of an existing relationship, and don’t take much time.
Of course you enjoy a nice smooch with your partner, but when was the last time you properly kissed one another? Kissing is a wonderful way to connect with each other, or even start something more.
Kissing can also reduce blood pressure, help prevent cavities by getting your saliva flowing, as well as giving you a mini facelift by working your facial muscles, especially through deep kissing. Kissing also increases your self-esteem by making you feel loved.
Aim to give your partner a good snog every day to reinforce your feelings for one another.
Hug Longer Than 20 Seconds
Hugging comes more naturally to some people, and is appropriate for certain types of relationships more than others, but it gives us many benefits.
A whole-hearted embrace gives a sense of security and reduces stress. This reduction in stress helps our physical health and mental wellbeing. This is why our kids always feel better after a hug when they’ve had a fall or are upset.
Hugging also stimulates the release of several neurotransmitters in our brains; serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin. Dopamine is a pleasure hormone that gives us a good feeling. Serotonin is another naturally produced drug that makes us feel good, reduces pain and increases feelings of happiness. Oxytocin helps us feel trust and a sense of safety.
Look for opportunities to give someone a big warm hug… or start asking for them.
We have two ears and only one mouth so we should listen twice as much as we speak, but we rarely do. More often, when someone is speaking, we are only waiting for our turn to speak rather than listening to what they have to say.
Listening is more than just hearing the words that someone says. When you listen, try to understand the person talking. When they have finished speaking, ask yourself: what was the meaning that they were trying to get across? What were they feeling as they spoke? What is important to them? Then ask any questions that you need to that will help clarify their meaning.
Unlike hugging, cuddling is not defined by arms and bodies connecting in a specific way. Cuddling could be anything from touching foreheads together, leaning against each other, or sitting side by side with an arm around someone.
Cuddling can be very powerful emotionally, socially, physically and mentally; so much so that there are even ‘cuddle clubs’ popping up around the world to facilitate hugs for those deeply in need of human connection!
Mistakes happen and when someone says “I’m sorry,” harbouring resentment will only make you unhappy. Punishing that person by withholding forgiveness will eventually eat away at your own inner peace.
Forgiveness releases the tension between you and allows you to start over. You may need a period of rebuilding trust, which can be painful, but you’re starting by accepting that this person is a human being. Forgiveness is what you would want if you made a mistake, so give someone else this gift.
They say that laughter is the best medicine and whether or not we need it for healing, we should definitely be laughing more often.
You don’t need to perform a comedy routine, but if you already know how to make someone giggle, see if you can increase how often you do it.
Find the humour in daily situations and share it with a friend or family member. If you put on two mismatched socks, show your partner your silly mistake and have a laugh at your own expense.
Laughter relieves tension and creates an emotional bond of joy with someone close to you.
Say “I Love You”
How often you tell a loved one that you love them doesn’t equate to how much you love them, but doing it more will strengthen your bond. Expressing your love out loud is a way of confirming that you care.
More often, you demonstrate your love through your actions, like preparing meals with love. Actions speak louder than words, but don’t forget that words have tremendous power also.
Remember! Happiness is contagious; by doing what makes you feel happy when connecting with someone creates happiness for that person too. Before you know it, you will have surrounded yourself with happy people!