One of the best ways to connect with our children (or anyone, in fact) is by making eye contact a habit. Eye contact shows that you value your child. Direct eye contact is beneficial to the child and can help increase the child’s focus and ability to connect with people.
Many times, as a parent, I found myself busy doing something – wrangling babies, cooking dinner, picking up, on the computer, etc. – and my son would say “Mom, you’re not listening to me.” Since realizing my bad habit and how detrimental that can be to our relationship, I make a concerted effort to STOP and look directly at my son when he is talking to me.
One-on-one full attention with your child cements a parent-child connection that every child needs and deserves.
At-risk children may be uncomfortable with direct eye contact, especially in the beginning. An abused child may even be fearful of eye contact due to previous traumas. Don’t rush a fearful child into direct eye contact, instead practice for short bits to help the child overcome his fears and earn your trust. (Also, keep in mind that in many Asian, African, and Latin American cultures, extended eye contact may be viewed as an affront or a challenge of authority.)
- Move your head so that the child can see your face
- Stop speaking for a moment to get the child’s attention
- Use the phrase “Let me see your eyes“
“Never use eye contact as an excuse to give your child a mean or angry stare; instead use your eyes to communicate in a loving and nurturing way.” from The Connected Child: Bring Hope and Healing to Your Adoptive Family (affiliate link)