The relationship between a parent and a child is among the most significant in a person’s life. As one of the earliest connections a child has, the parental relationship sets the bar for everyone thereafter. Positive parent-child bonds foster autonomy, curiosity, self-esteem and better decision-making skills. Improve your relationship with your child by getting involved with their lives and building stronger communication. Also, learn how to adapt your parent-child relationship with time.
Get on their level. You can enrich the relationship you have with your child by connecting with them in an age-appropriate way. Teach, work on projects, and play on a level that your child is familiar with. This helps them bond with you and makes you seem more approachable.
If you have a toddler, get on the floor and build a city out of blocks. If you have older adolescents or teens, join in on a round of video games.
You are more likely to spark conversation during these types of activities than by trying to get them talking at the dinner table.
Emphasize the importance of family time. While your children need to know that you acknowledge and respect their individuality, it also counts when you uplift the family as a unit. Make family time a regular and special part of your routine.
Eat meals together most nights of the week, and have everyone share their peaks and pits (i.e. best and worst moments) of the day. Go to sporting events, movies, or community gatherings together.
Dedicate one-on-one time for each child. Spending time together as a unit is essential. You should also set aside time to focus on each individual child. Prioritizing one-on-one time helps you form a connection with each child. Plus, it also helps you focus on each child’s individual strengths and talents.
Find a shared hobby to engage in with each of your children. Maybe you will teach one kid how to fish on weekends. Or, work with another on perfecting a piano performance. Free up part of your weekly schedule to build a special relationship with each child.
Stay in touch with academics, friendships, and extracurriculars. Parents who have good relationships with their children are involved in their lives. You can’t expect to have a strong bond with your children if you simply say “good morning” and “good night” each day.
It’s understandable that you’re busy juggling work and other responsibilities, but you should also make an effort to get to know your kids and learn about what’s happening in their lives.
If you have some free time, offer to volunteer at school, coach a softball game, or meet with your children’s teachers regularly to stay updated on their academic performance.
Sit down with them as they do homework. Help them practice their lines for the school play. Invite your kids’ friends over so you know what kind of influences they are around.
Kid around. Let your kids know that things don’t always have to be so serious between you. Of course, you want them to respect your authority, but you also want to laugh with them. A sense of fun can liven up their lives and build fond memories.
Make crazy faces or noises to supplement mealtimes or playtime with smaller children. Act silly with adolescents by pulling pranks or telling jokes.
Maintaining Positive Communication
Be trustworthy. As a parent, it’s important that you build a foundation of trust. Trust translates to many roles in parenting. Of course, your child needs to know that they can rely on you to be there. When you say you’ll do something, do it. Keep your word. This helps your child form basic secure attachments that will influence future relationships.
However, trust also means respecting your child’s need for privacy and keeping their confidences when they do share with you.
Trust doesn’t necessarily mean you believe whatever your child says, but it does mean you’ll try and give them the benefit of the doubt.
Practice active listening without distractions. Parents are busy. But, you also want to make sure your children know that you care about what they have to say. Even if your child is complaining about the same issue at school or going on and on about teenage drama, try to give them your full attention. When you actively listen, you strengthen your bond with your child and demonstrate their importance to you.
Silence your phone and shut off the TV. Don’t zone them out in order to prepare your response. Truly listen to your child and try to understand their message. Turn to face them. Make eye contact. Use open body language. Listen without judgment or negative facial expressions.
Once they’re finished speaking, summarize what you heard. For instance, your daughter says, “All the girls at school are going to this camp-out next weekend. But, we have to go to that stupid wedding.” You might say, “It sounds like you are frustrated because you can’t attend the camp-out.”
Follow the 3 F’s of effective parenting. Every child pushes the envelope a bit when it comes to communication and behavior. However, as the adult, you are must be inclined to respond maturely and calmly to misconduct. Go by the 3 F’s to help you with discipline and protect the overall parent-child relationship.
Be firm. State what the consequences are and apply them consistently.
Be fair. Make sure the punishment fits the crime. Try to avoid harsh or excessive consequences.
Be friendly. Convey your words in steady yet polite tone. Avoid raising your voice. Simply explain what terms they violated and lay out the consequences. Also, take time to praise them when they are doing well.
Have relaxed side-by-side conversations. Adolescents and teens can easily become intimidated with too much face-to-face communication. Reduce the pressure by planning some of your talks in a parallel position. Try asking your son about bullying at school when driving him to rugby practice. Ask your daughter about her new love interest when you are baking in the kitchen.
Use this time to really get to know your child, including their interests, preferences, hobbies, etc. Share your own interests, likes, and background with your child too.
Emphasize any similar interests you both may share. Your child is more likely to engage and open up when talking in this way.
Changing the Relationship over Time
Review rules and increase privileges as your children get older. As your children age, it’s important to review your rules and guidelines and change them as needed. Children need to see that you trust them with more responsibility as they age. However, this also may translate to more serious consequences when they break the rules.
Encourage cooperation by sitting down with your children and discussing the rules. You might say, “It seems like you haven’t had any problem sticking to your 9 pm curfew. Since you’re older, I think we’ll extend that by an hour. How does that sound?”
Include them in decisions. The feeling a teen gets when their parent genuinely wants their opinion is priceless. Many parents just bark out decisions instead of letting their kids play a role. However, as your children become teenagers and young adults, it can give them a sense of autonomy to offer forth their opinions.
Allow older children to weigh in on more decisions like choosing clothes, meals, activities, or vacation plans. You might ask their opinion about handling family matters to show you respect their point-of-view.
For example, you might say, “Jackson, what’s your suggestion for this week’s family movie night?” or “Where would you like to go for summer break?”
Encourage your child to take on challenges and find independence. When your child has a strong relationship with you, they feel empowered to go out into the world and take on challenges. Be a supporter for your child, pushing them to develop greater self-efficacy over time.
This may translate into allowing your teenager to handle their own laundry to ready them for college life. However, it may also involve empowering your child to stand up to bullies or speak up (respectfully) to a teacher who gave them an unfair grade.
Empowerment happens through gradual instruction. Teach your child how to take on more demanding chores or tasks. Role-play with them through stressful social situations. Then, give them feedback to encourage future progress.
Open up and show your human side. As your children mature, it’s okay to relax the parent hat a little and let them get a glimpse of the person underneath. In fact, showing your kids your human side can actually reinforce lessons. Use personal, age-appropriate stories to drive home ways your kids can learn and grow.
For instance, if you were bullied in school, share that with your child and explain how you got through it. They look at you as being strong and invincible because of how you overcame bullying.