Relational Gestures, what are they and why are they important?

As a therapist who integrates the principles of Haim Omer’s Nonviolent Resistance (NVR) in my practice, I often emphasize the importance of relational gestures. These are purposeful, compassionate actions that parents can use to strengthen their connection with their child, particularly in times of conflict or estrangement.

What are Relational Gestures?

Relational gestures are intentional acts of kindness, empathy, or connection directed towards the child. They are not contingent on the child’s behaviour but are an expression of the parent’s enduring love and commitment. These gestures are integral to the NVR approach, as they help in rebuilding bridges and restoring trust within the parent-child relationship.

“Connectedness has the power to counterbalance adversity.”

Bruce Perry

Practical Examples of Relational Gestures:

Writing a Letter: A heartfelt letter expressing your thoughts, feelings, and unconditional love can be a powerful tool. It allows for expression without the immediate pressure of a face-to-face conversation

Creating a Safe Space: Designate a space in your home where your child can feel safe and relaxed. This space symbolizes your respect for their need for comfort and privacy.

Attending Important Events: Make an effort to be present at events that are important to your child, showing that you value their interests and achievements.

Offering Help with Interests: Engage with your child’s hobbies or interests, offering to help or participate in a way that feels genuine and supportive.

Remembering Small Details: Acknowledge and celebrate small things, like their favourite meal or a significant accomplishment, to show that you pay attention and care.

Why are Relational Gestures Important?

Relational gestures are crucial because they demonstrate to the child that the parent’s love and commitment are unconditional, not dependent on the child’s behaviour. In the context of NVR, these gestures help de-escalate conflicts and build a foundation for open communication and mutual respect. They are a non-confrontational way of showing care and concern, which can be particularly impactful in situations where traditional disciplinary methods have strained the relationship.

Incorporating relational gestures into parenting can lead to a more harmonious and understanding family dynamic, aligned with the core principles of NVR. It’s about moving beyond the conflict and focusing on the enduring bond between parent and child. As Omer emphasizes in his work, such gestures are a vital part of creating a family environment based on empathy, respect, and nonviolent communication.

Omer, H. (2004). Nonviolent Resistance: A New Approach to Violent and Self-destructive Children. Cambridge University Press.


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