As children get older and older, it becomes harder and harder for parents to connect with them. It seems like at one point, children think their parents know everything then almost overnight, parents know nothing at all. Check out these four ways to connect with your children and work toward building a healthy relationship with them.
- Have dinner together every night. Many families neglect the impact that having dinner together has on a family. It may seem like a strain to prepare a meal everyday and gather the entire family but you don’t have to make a full course dinner each day. The act of getting everyone together in one place at the end of the day will encourage conversation and keep your family connected. This is the perfect time to ask about their day, hear stories from school or wherever they spent the majority of their day. You may not be able to do this every day because of schedule conflicts, however making this a practice on a regular basis will ensure you stay in touch with your children and what’s happening in their lives.
- Have mommy/daddy and me time. No matter how many children you have, each will have different needs. It is so important that you find an interest that each child has and spend one-on-one time with that child cultivating their interest. By allowing the child to focus on their interest with you, it shows not only that you value their skill/ability but it will also alleviate the sense of competition that children will feel about being better or worse than their sibling. This one-on-one time will also allow you and your child to get to know each other better. Make sure you use this time to talk to your child and encourage them to ask questions about your childhood. Many times children feel like they can’t relate to their parents because they don’t realize that their parents were once children also.
- Discuss your rules and expectations. I remember growing up and hearing, “because I said so” as the standard answer to my multitude of “Why?” questions. Although you are the parent and it is because you said so, teaching your children why you say so or the reasoning behind your rules and expectations will help them to make better decisions in the future. Saying, “don’t go to Sara’s house” is a very broad statement. Saying, “You should not go to Sara’s house when her parents aren’t home because you need to be in a supervised environment in case an emergency occurs.” The brief explanation not only sets the tone for him/her going to Sara’s house but also the types of environments that you find acceptable so that they know if another friend invites them over, they know there should be supervision. Giving your children explanations does not mean that you are answering to them but you are helping them to understand the boundaries that you have set for them and why they are important.
- Listen. So often, we have a conversation already planned in our heads or we have ideas of who we want our children to be and what their experiences should be; we forget that they have their own journey. I have a twenty year old brother and sometimes he just wants to talk. When he gets in this mood, he expects me to drop what I am doing to listen. Yes, this can be an inconvenience but I understand what it’s like to be a young adult and the need to express yourself. Children don’t always operate within our time constraints so you have to be prepared to listen when your children want to talk. It may not always be during an opportune time but they need to know that you are available to them when they need you. Saying, “wait a minute” or “come back later” will make them feel as though they are not a priority and they may seek other alternatives to release their thoughts and emotions. Whatever you might be doing at the moment can not be more important than the emotional growth of your child.
I hope these tips help you to better communicate with your child. Feel free to share your tips as well. I want this to become a community for us to learn one from the other.