Having a great relationship with your child has always been a top priority but, lately, you’re finding yourself on autopilot and realizing things could be better. Maybe you remember simpler times when life wasn’t as hectic and you had more energy to focus on your relationship. Maybe bonding with your child has always been a struggle. Maybe you’re not sure how to build and nurture the relationship that you want. But, you do know that you want to make a change.
The good news is it’s never too early or late to start! Children often respond more to actions than just words. Each strategy listed below will give you a concrete way to help strengthen your connection and bring some energy back into your relationship. There’s no limit to what you can gain!
Here are five things that you can do to improve your relationship with your children.
During the first few minutes after they wake up, when you see them after school, and before they go to bed, give yourself and your child the gift of having a few moments of togetherness.
Because these are times that mark the beginning and end of different parts of their day, your interactions with them can make a huge impact on your relationship. You could give them a quick cuddle, words of encouragement, chatting about what’s coming up for the day or how the day went, or simply enjoying each other’s company without distraction. What you do doesn’t have to be complicated but it will be effective if you’re consistent and it becomes a positive experience that both of you look forward to everyday.
See your child as a human.
This might sound obvious but, oftentimes, when parents explore how they react and engage with their child, it becomes clear that they have unrealistic expectations that sometimes are even difficult for adults to achieve. Children have the huge task of growing up and learning how to navigate all areas of their lives with a brain that is still developing.
One way to support your child is by recognizing that, like adults, children will make mistakes. As hard as it is to look past the behavior, a child who is misbehaving isn’t trying to give you a hard time. They are having a hard time. Viewing your child’s behavior from this perspective doesn’t undermine your role as a parent. In contrast, it will transform the way in which you understand your child’s experiences and strengthen your relationship as your parenting aligns more closely with what your child needs.
Hold space for your child’s feelings.
Offer yourself as a person who can listen attentively and respond with curiosity instead of judgment so your child feels comfortable talking to you without feeling like they are too much or not enough. Children who are allowed to express their feelings will learn that difficult feelings are a part of life and something that they can manage.
Holding space can be really challenging because it often triggers feelings in ourselves and it might take practice and working through your own issues. But, have you noticed how ignoring or pushing away your feelings often makes them stronger and harder to manage? Noticing, naming, and acknowledging feelings allows us to move through them. Providing yourself as a safe person to experience feelings with offers your child someone to turn to when they need it.
Take a break from a heated situation if you’re not able to engage calmly. Come back and talk about it with your child. Parents are human too.
One of the best ways to build and preserve your relationship with your child is to take a break when the conversation is no longer productive and you are instead in heated conflict. Communicate calmly that the two of you can talk again when everyone is calm. Conflict with younger children can obviously look different than with older children but, ultimately, taking a break creates an emotionally safe environment in which you model respect and self-regulation. It will give the both of you a respite from feeling emotionally and physically overwhelmed without your child feeling abandoned or unheard because you will return to the conversation.
Make time for fun! Join your child in something they enjoy or find something you enjoy doing together.
When was the last time you truly had fun with your child? Whenever it was, there’s always room for more fun! More than the activity itself, it’s the time you spend enjoying each other and sharing experiences that your child will remember. People sometimes don’t remember specific details but they generally do remember the way they felt. Your child will remember the feeling of you being present and genuinely interested in being in their life. Having fun is a powerful way to connect with your child.
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Pansy Ayala is a licensed therapist with Catalyss Counseling and specializes in treating adults with anxiety, depression, grief and loss, and relationship issues. She uses a holistic, individualized approach to better understand who you are, what areas of your life you find problematic, and how you can reach your goals. She especially enjoys working with parents. Follow Catalyss Counseling on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.