Children Need Involved Caretakers

Children need a consistent relationship with caretakers who care about them, regardless of how the family is structured. Urie Bronfenbrenner of Cornell University says that children need someone who "is crazy about them." Children can thrive in intact families, divorced families, blended families, single-parent families and foster families. It is not the structure of the family that counts; it is the quality of the relationship that the caretakers have with the children that most influences their development..

So how can caretakers become more involved in their children's lives?

  • Show affection for your children in concrete ways. Say "I love you" often and give snuggles and hugs when children ask for them.
  • Strike a balance between work and family. While work and career are important, family must be a priority if caretakers intend to have enduring relationships and positive influence. Set limits on the number of hours you work and avoid bringing work home.
  • Be a role model for healthy relationships. Express your love openly and frequently. Communicate often and respectfully. Invest time and energy into your relationship.
  • Divide household and parenting responsibilities fairly. The daily chores of maintaining a home and raising children can overwhelm one person and lead to parental burnout. Even when one person is the breadwinner, they can help with housecleaning, laundry, doctors' visits and meal preparation. Providing a safe, comfortable, orderly home for children is one way to show you care for them.
  • Get involved with your child's education. Review homework and help when needed. Participate in parent-teacher conferences and school orientation programs. Join the PTA and attend meetings when possible. Regardless of your own level of education, send the message that you value education.
  • Play with your children every chance you get.
  • Be a good listener. Show genuine interest when your children tell you their ideas, feelings and stories. Turn off the TV and put down the tablet so you can give them your undivided attention.
  • Volunteer to help with your child's out-of-school activities. Caretakers are needed to coach, teach and lead youth teams and groups. These experiences can enrich the caretaker-child relationship.
  • Have fun with your family. The greatest motivation for involved caretakers is the enjoyment and satisfaction they derive from active involvement with their children. You can play board games, take hikes and bike rides, go camping or canoeing, plan family field trips together or do almost anything that interests you and your children.
  • Even caretakers who are separated, divorced or otherwise estranged from the other caretaker can stay involved in their son's or daughter's life. Support your child financially and keep the lines of communication open with the other caretaker. Provide a consistent, nurturing, emotionally safe environment when your child visits you.

Source: Tim Jahn, Human Development Specialist, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County. Parent Pages was developed by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County. HD 61

Last updated October 19, 2020