Power of Emotional Connection between Parent and Child

Children need their parents to tune in emotionally and not just physically.

By Judith Alagirisamy | 6 October, 2019

A version of this forum letter was published in the Straits Times on 7 October 2019.

The challenges parents face while coaching children to keep up with academic rigour have been in the news recently (ST: Singapore families spent $1.4b on private tuition for kids last year, Sep 6; ST: Some parents take issue with PSLE 2019 maths paper and call it 'exceptionally difficult', Oct 1). We recognise that every parent has their children’s best interests at heart, and want to provide them with the best resources to get a head start in life.

At the same time, it is key that in our pursuit to help our children thrive academically that we also invest in building up their social and emotional competencies. This is best developed when we take time to foster greater parent-child connectedness through intentional communication and meaningful interaction with our children.

Experts tell us that when parents cultivate a warm, supportive and loving relationship with their children, the child is at lower risk for social and emotional problems and negative risk-taking behaviours later in life1. He or she is also more likely to have positive and healthy relationships in both childhood and adulthood.

As parents, how much emphasis do we place on connecting emotionally with our children, and fostering a positive parent-child relationship, given its long term impact on our young ones?

As part of our annual Children’s Day campaign – Race to Praise this year, to encourage and equip parents to affirm their children, we conducted an online survey with more than 600 parents, asking them to share their parenting styles, challenges and interactions with their children.

We observed that one in five parents experienced high levels of connectedness with their children. These parents spend one-on-one time with their children, say “I love you” and played with their children regularly. Most distinctively, they are also clued in to their child’s thoughts and feelings.

Amongst parents whose children discussed their feelings openly with them, more than half of them felt that their children were also willing to tackle a challenge again after failure.

These findings suggests that our children today really need their parents to tune in emotionally and not just physically. As parents, our emotional connection with our children sets the foundation for the development of their emotional resilience, empathy for others, and other abilities such as problem-solving and relationship-building skills2.

We encourage parents to continue to build strong supportive relationships with their children – and to make this a priority to raise resilient kids. We cannot shield our children from every test, obstacle and challenge, but we can cultivate in them the right tools of resilience and confidence to tackle life’s problems.

Judith Alagirisamy
Family-Life Strategist, Focus on the Family Singapore


1. Qu, Y., Fuligni, A. J., Galvan, A., & Telzer, E. (2015). Buffering effect of positive parent-child relationships on adolescent risk taking: A longitudinal neuroimaging investigation. Retrieved from https://experts.illinois.edu/en/publications/buffering-effect-of-positive-parent-child-relationships-on-adoles.
Landry, S. H., Smith, K. E., & Swank, P. R. (2006). Responsive parenting: Establishing early foundations for social, communication, and independent problem-solving skills. Developmental Psychology, 42(4), 627-642. Retrieved from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0012-1649.42.4.627.

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