It’s that time of year again. School is back in session and the Summer season is coming to an end. During different seasons of the year, it can be helpful to think about how your relationship is going with your child. And, despite how old your child is, there are ways to strengthen your relationship at any age. So, ask yourself these questions: Do you feel that your child can openly communicate with you? Do you and your child get enough time together? Would you identify your relationship with your child as strong and connecting? Where does your relationship stand with your child? Is there room for improvement? Check out these tips to see how you can have a better relationship with your child.
Tips to Having a Better Relationship With Your Child
As a therapist, this topic comes up time and time again from young children to adult aged children. Oftentimes, children struggle to feel like their parent(s) is actually listening to them. When your child tries to express/verbalize their emotions, how do you listen to them? Do you take them seriously? Do you downplay how they are feeling or what they are interested in? In order to actually listen to your child, focus on not sharing your opinion. Hear what your child has to say to the point that you could repeat it back to them. And lastly, get curious. Ask them follow-up questions to show that you were listening. Let your child openly share without feeling like you’re going to interject.
2. Empathize With Them
As a parent, it can be difficult to think back to your child’s age and remember what it was like to be in that age. And, just because you had certain experiences as a child does not mean that your child is going to experience the same thing. Empathize with your child by communicating understanding of their feelings and experiences. Although you may not relate to why your child feels the way that they do, take their feelings and thoughts seriously. To better empathize with them, continue to get curious about what they are feeling and thinking.
Oftentimes, children shy away from expressing their thoughts and feelings to their parents when they feel they won’t be accepted if they do. Even beyond thoughts and feelings, sometimes children will have a different personality in front of their parents as well. So think about how you show your child acceptance. When they share their feelings (even negative feelings- like sadness or anger), do you try to change how they are feeling, or do you validate that they are feeling that way? When your child expresses an opinion that’s different from your’s, do you accept it, or do you try to persuade them differently or tell them they’re wrong?
To have a better relationship with your child, accept them for who they are. Don’t try to change their opinions or feelings. Validate how they are feeling. Show them it’s ok to have differences of opinion. Additionally, show them it’s ok to experience negative feelings as well. Create a conversation with them so that both of you can understand each other better.
To have a better relationship with your child, it is important to be intentional with the time you have to spend with them. Quality time with your children has many benefits including feeling more connected and more positive behaviors. Create time to be with your child. Unfortunately, busy schedules with school, work, and extracurricular activities are always going to be there. Therefore, time with your child must be created and intentional. So, prepare for the next month out. Give yourself time to plan. Think about times when you and your child have enjoyed each other’s company. What were you doing then? What are things that your child enjoys doing and would like to share with you? What are new things that you and your child have both wanted to try? Plan for this quality time and make it a priority.
5. Encourage Them
How often does your child hear positive statements from you as their parent? Conversely, how often does your child hear negative statements from you about them? How often would your child say that you encourage them? Would your child say that you are their biggest cheerleader? As a parent, it can be difficult to encourage your child at all times, especially if you feel they are making bad choices. Start observing the things that your child does really well and share this with them. Be intentional in sharing more positive statements than negative. When your child shares their aspirations and dreams with you, be encouraging. Ask your child how you can help encourage and support them. Once these things start happening, your relationship with start to get better with your child.
Are you ready to have a better relationship with your child? Even if your relationship is good, there is always room for improvement! Focus on these five tips and see how they strengthen you and your child’s relationship.
Amanda Cummins is an associate therapist with The Marriage and Family Clinic. She focuses on working with couples in distress as well as families and children in transitions. As a Denver Native, Amanda enjoys hiking, yoga, and spending time with her family.