We’ve all been there. An argument with your kiddo, a feeling that you have lost touch with them…here are seven easy tips to reconnect with your child and strengthen your relationship
As a mother of two kids, one tween boy and one teen girl, I’ve spent the last 8 years trying to figure out how to be the best parent I could possibly be. And as they entered their tween and teen years, I had to navigate a whole new phase which sent me down a journey of discovery. Connection, as simple as it sounds has been the key to my parenting pivot. As parents we often want to fix, give advice, come up with solutions for, or rather move our kids along because we have 15 million things to do. But deepening the connection with our kids starts with showing our kids they are loved (no matter what they do), valued, and accepted (no matter who they are) without judgment. Your connection with your child plays a significant role in how they see the world. They rely on you for key information that builds their personality, such as feelings of safety, love, and security. All of this will reflect in how your child connects and relates with their interactions in the future.
I don’t have time to “connect” with my child
If you feel like you don’t have time to connect with your kids (I get it, life is busy with work, daily chores, life itself!), I’d counter that taking the time to connect with your child not only builds them up, but makes things easier in the long run. After all, when we feel connection – we are more likely to comply. Put it this way, before anyone lets us in, before you expect them to do hard things, before they trust us or before they are willing to complete a task, you need to connect first. Your connection with your child plays a critical role in forming who they become as a person because you’re the first point of contact they have in this world. So the question is, knowing how powerful connection is, how do you maintain a positive connection with your kids?
Simple tips to stay connected with your kids and teens
1. Express your love with hugs
Connecting with your child through physical expression is important for healthy emotional development. Smile at them, talk to them with gentleness, love and affection, and hug them as often as you can. A 30-second hug triggers those reward chemicals and the beauty is that it’s reciprocal! Treat every interaction with your child as an opportunity to connect.
2. Be present when you need to be
We are busy parents every second of the day, constantly juggling or thinking about what we didn’t do yesterday or what we must do tomorrow. When our kids rush in from school, when they burst in halfway through an important email, when you finally get home from work – and when they want to tell you something – be present. Put down your phone, flip the laptop lid down, drop whatever it is you are doing and respond to your child. Being present means undivided attention, eye-contact and pure understanding. Your willingness to be available to have any type of conversation with your child will let them know that they can count on you to talk to when they need it the most.
3. Listen, but don’t judge
Is your child extremely happy and disturbing you with too much talk? Or are they brooding over something seemingly trivial? Avoid giving your child the thought that their feelings are misplaced. Listen to whatever they have to say and empathise with them – step into their world and see it from their point of view. When you do this, you won’t judge. Connection starts with listening and ‘getting’ them. When you are demonstrating that you are understanding what they are going through, and you are feeling what they are feeling, you are giving them a sense of being heard and understood. Not judged.
A great tip is to mirror by matching the look on their face to your face. It doesn’t have to be exact, but by doing so you are showing them empathy and compassion. Giving them the sense that you really get what they are going through – whether it’s excitement or upset.
4. Don’t be quick to fix
We are all too ready to give advice, come up with solutions, fix the problem. This is our own parenting agenda. This might be difficult for some; it was for me sometimes counterintuitive. However, your kids more often than not, just need someone to listen to them, to vent their anger, to share their excitement, to hear their whine. When we jump to solutions they won’t learn or equip themselves with the tools to eventually figure things out for themselves. So, it is best here to guide and help them brainstorm solutions to problems or challenges, get them to figure out what the best route is going forward, and let them come back to you if they need you. This way, they are more likely to come to us again if another problem arises.
5. Spend time together – especially 1:1
Connect with your child every day. It doesn’t have to be hours of pure fun and play. It can be a short walk in the park or finding a mutual hobby or sport you can both enjoy. The key here is to talk and listen to them. It’s not so much the quantity of time – but the quality one on one time.
Talking one on one with your child will go a long way in deepening your connection. Take time out and be available for each of your children. It could even be before bed. You can knock on their door and have a little chat before saying goodnight. When they see that you care so much about them, they won’t be afraid to run to you with their biggest problems or triumphs.
6. Set healthy boundaries
Your child needs structure and routine to navigate the world as they grow, and they will be looking to you to show them right from wrong. Connecting with your child is a way to instil discipline and gain compliance with them. The good thing is that while instilling discipline in your kids, you’re also creating a connection, helping them understand how things work and what is expected of them.
Ensure you have age-appropriate consequences in place when your kids break rules. It doesn’t make you a bad parent; it helps you create a society where people acknowledge and respect rules.
7. Always be available
Kids tend to talk at any given moment, and most of the time teens don’t want to talk. As a mum and parent, you will need to be available to talk at any given moment. If you have proved yourself as a good listener, that you understand and can empathise with them, that you aren’t quick to judge or jump to conclusions and provide quick fixes – they will come to you when something is on their mind. Don’t ever waste these moments if you can. It could be drop-offs to dance class or soccer practice, it could be sitting down to family dinners or whilst you tuck them in bed at night. Grab these moments to ask questions about their day, their hobbies, their interests. By showing interest in them and what makes them tick, you have got yourself a great opportunity to connect.
Letting your kids know your availability can also be helpful:
“I’ve just got to finish this email, and then I’m all yours”.
“I’ll be in the kitchen making dinner if you need me”.
“I’ve got to pop out for an hour, but you can call me”.
I hope these tips help you build a strong connection with your child. What tip are you going to start with today? Giving more hugs? Making time for that one on one chat? See if you can work on a few of these tips this week and you’ll be amazed at the results!
Read More: How to Manifest Your Best Year Yet