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4 Tips to Improving Your Relationship with Your Child
As parents, we all want to strengthen our relationship with our children. We want to stay connected and create a strong foundation for our children to know we will always be there. Our first relationship is with our parents, and we hope to leave our children with positive aspects of relationships. It is important that while our children love us (come on, we’re already awesome parents for looking into this very topic), we continue to model healthy and positive relationships as well as help them build a foundation for future relationships and friendships, leading to stronger boundary setting, trust, and self-confidence.
Here are 4 tips to help strengthen your relationship with your child(ren).
1. Play Together/Implement Special Time:
Try and carve time out in the day to interact with your child for about 15 minutes uninterrupted.
Let them completely lead in the play. If they want to play Monopoly with some backward rules, let them engage with them and ask questions about the play and them.
Keep your phone away from you and let them know this will be 15+ minutes.
Children often can exhibit negative behaviors to gain attention from you. Remember that to them, there is not positive or negative attention. Attention is attention, and if you are often only giving attention when your child misbehaves, they know that if they continue misbehaving, they will continue to gain attention from you. Creating this “special time” gives them time to have your attention on them completely, thus improving your relationship AND their behavior.
2. Really Get to Know Your Child – to piggyback off the previous tip, it was stated that you should ask questions and show interest. Make sure to ask open-ended questions often and listen to them with empathy. This will begin to foster safety and comfort with talking with you. In conjunction, some experts even state that you should find your child’s “love language.” (Don’t know, that’s ok! Here is a link to a quiz that can help you: https://5lovelanguages.com/quizzes/love-language) Remember that your relationship with your child is still a relationship. We need to focus on connecting and understanding them. This may help you see how your child best receives love from you so you can begin to love them accordingly. For example, my love language is quality time, and the lowest on my list is gifts. So, my parent or partner can give me gifts all day long, but that is not where I feel most loved. I feel it most when I spend time with my loved ones.
3. Express Empathy, Comfort, and Safety: In beginning to ask open-ended questions and learn more about your child, they will begin to feel safer, more comfortable, and open to speaking with you about their thoughts. As our children get older or still exhibit negative behaviors, we must maintain that same level of openness, comfort, and empathy. This may mean that we as parents have to focus on regulating ourselves. Being a parent is overwhelming and you need time to decompress and cope with parenting and other struggles you may be dealing with (work, family stressors, etc.). In the moment, focus on taking deep breaths, going for a regulating walk with the child, tag in another parent/caregiver, etc. If you are struggling with something deeper, consider therapy services or contact your support system for help.
4. Setting Boundaries – Expanding on the previous tip, as your child feels safety and comfort, they can sometimes push us a little. They will continue to push boundaries and gauge your reactions. Remember to reduce negative attention, create structure for them by having consistent boundaries and routines for your child. Make sure to organize homework time or bath time that is consistent day-to-day. Every home will be different so work with any other caregivers and the child (if they’re old enough) to discuss rules and schedules. Set clear expectations for them. This will continue to expand on their sense of safety with you. Children thrive with structure because we are laying out clear expectations for them.
Lastly, creating rituals (the secret 5th tip) will encompass all of the above tips. Make these tips a ritual in your home and reward them for following in these tips as well. They will continue to grow and understand them as time goes on and you continue to model and consistently follow them. Their relationship will blossom into a loving, open relationship with you if we are consistent. You will begin to see less conflict. Set special dates with your child, take them out of school for a “mental health day,” give them gifts of things they like, watch their favorite movie with them (I know you’ve seen it 100 times, but try and be mindful and present!)
All parents want to feel closer and more connected with their children. As parents, we want to give our children the best chances to succeed in their future, and we know it starts now. Family therapy and counseling offer an opportunity to change family dynamics to empower our children and to thrive in the future.