You have three kids—a son and two daughters. You easily relate to your son and one daughter but can’t seem to connect with your other daughter. You don’t have anything to talk about, your personalities are polar opposites, and you don’t enjoy any of the same things. What should you do?
First of all, remember, that many times parents feel closer to kids with whom they share common interests or personalities. If Dad loves baseball and Junior does, too, the two (whether son or daughter) will spend more time together, share frustrations, and fun. If one parent has a similar sense of humor as one of his kids, they will naturally bond more easily because laughter makes them feel that they are on the same emotional plane at times. And while parents of children with similar personalities often argue more frequently because they either both have strong wills, talkative natures, or are very sensitive, they will be closer because even conflict is a form of intimacy.
But what should a parent do when a child is the opposite sex, shares little common interests, and has an opposite personality type?
Remember a few really important things and stay positive.
What really connects kids to parents isn’t personality type or common interest; it is love and need.
Every child is born with a desire to get attention, affection, and admiration from his or her parent. And any parent can give these things to his son or daughter. Parent-child relationships are about the deep things, the good things, and these are what drive us to want to be together, work for one another, and never give up on one another. Liking the same hobbies or laughing at the same jokes are nice, but they are the superficial parts of our lives with our children. The love we extend and the sweat we pour into them make our relationships wonderful and meaningful.
Focus on the big stuff.
We aren’t meant to be our kids’ social directors, best friends, psychologists, or source of all joy. We are meant to be Mom and Dad. That means that our kids really just want us to want to be with them, enjoy their company, and listen to them. We don’t need to entertain, pay for tons of stuff, or even understand them very well. We simply need to be available to listen, love, and respond to what we hear with wisdom and kindness.
Our job is to raise healthy 25-year-olds.
If your 13-year-old is giving you fits, hang on; you’re not done. She’ll change or you’ll change (or probably both of you will), and life will get better if you stay the course. So in the meantime, if you have a daughter or son who doesn’t seem to want to talk, be with you, or relate to you at all, here are a few practical things to consider.
1. Let her know that you enjoy her company.
Ask her to run errands with you, offer to take her to the movies with friends—whatever you can to let her know that you just want to be near her.
2. Pay attention to what she likes to do and join in.
If your daughter likes to go to the movies and you like fishing on a sunny Saturday afternoon, skip fishing and go to the movies. Do this enough and then tell her how much fun you had together. Maybe she’ll even fish with you one day.
3. Go for the simple stuff.
Maybe your daughter doesn’t want to go “do” things with you, so catch her while she’s home. When she goes to bed, come into her room and say an extended good night. Ask how her day was. If you are a praying parent, ask if she needs prayer for anything (what child will refuse that?). The point is to meet her in the ordinariness of life. What she needs (and wants) is to know that—even though she relates to you differently than the other kids—that you enjoy her just as much. (Even if you don’t get along with her as well as the other kids, pretend you do.)
4. Don’t worry about talking when you are together.
Many parents get wound up about their kids not wanting to talk to them. Usually the problem isn’t that kids don’t want to talk; they just don’t feel you really want to hear what they have to say.
So, say very little and listen a lot. Eventually (and this may take months) your daughter will open up when you are together. The point is to begin by being around her—whether you talk or stay quiet.