Here are 6 foolproof ways to connect with your child:
- Be disciplined, patient and intentional.
Your job as a good parent is to decide that connecting with your child is going to be a goal that you set out to do. That said, you don’t want it to feel forced. You don’t want to be intrusive with your child and put pressure on her to talk openly to you, reassure you that she loves you. This is about you reaching out to your child, taking the lead and having a plan on changes that you need to make in order for connection to happen naturally. Often, we parents set out to do something and pressure our kids to agree with us, listen to us and go along with whatever we’re trying to do. This won’t work with connection. It must be genuine. Here’s what will help your child want to be closer to you.
- Reach out and talk to your child when she is relaxed.
These times for kids are: bedtime, weekends, when you are riding in a car (unless you’re coming home from school or a sports game where he was stressed.) When he comes home from a date, you are out to dinner- you know the times during the week that your child is relaxed so target those times.
- Let child know that you enjoy his company.
You don’t have an agenda all the time and you just want to be with him. You can even say that- “I really enjoy your company.” Even if you feel angry or frustrated with your child, say it anyway. Knowing that someone wants us to be them makes each of us feel loved. After you have communicated that, don’t feel pressure to do anything else.
- Ask simple questions.
Many parents lament that their child won’t talk to them. They say that their child doesn’t want to spend time with them. Often kids feel this way because parents: don’t let kids know they want to be with them AND that whenever they are with parents they are ignored. Would you want to be with someone if you felt ignored? Also- if you felt that the person was going to tell you what you needed to do, how you needed to change or what was frustrating them about you, would you open up to them? I don’t think so. It helps to put yourself in your child’s shoes and ask: what would make me want to talk to someone I loved? Also, many kids feel that parents aren’t really interested in hearing what they say, what their opinions are or how they feel. If you felt that someone was going to dismiss your feelings as “childish” that the person wasn’t really listening in the first place or that they were going to react quickly to what you have to say and give you advice or correct you thinking or feeling, why would you talk to them? You wouldn’t. So- if you want your child to open up to you, you must: make sure they know you want to hear what they have to say (which means you need to look at them and listen, make sure they know you respect what they have to say, aren’t constantly preaching to them or correcting them.
- Share a common experience.
One of the best ways to get closer to another is to share a common experience- whether the experience is good or bad. There is something about going through difficulties- like a vacation that was a disaster, the elation of a good play, reading or listening to a book together and talking about it. There are many things that you can plan to do with your child that only you and he experience. Of course, you aren’t going to plan painful ones but the more time you spend together, the more opportunity you will have to experience those.
- Beef up your listening skills.Kids trust parents who listen to them. They feel loved and see listening as a form of respect and admiration. My patients tell me this all the time whether they are in kindergarten or 12th grade. Being really heard makes a person feel that what they have to say is important and that they are important. Kids feel more grown up when a parent listens to their ideas.Think about how you feel when you say something important to a loved one and she ignores you. You feel like you and your thoughts are insignificant. Then- what happens to your self-esteem? If you are close to that person, you feel worse about yourself after this happens. When you think about it, whenever we have a conversation with someone, we leave that exchange feeling either worse or better about ourselves. We rarely feel neutral. We feel either lifted up or worse about ourselves, even if it’s just a little bit worse.
Multiply those feeling by ten and you will understand how your child feels when he talks to you.
One of the best things that a parent can do for her child is to periodically turn off the noise. Shut your phone off, turn the television off or go to a quiet place and sit still for 10 minutes. This makes the mind clear and the noise circulating in their head go away. Then, she is rejuvenated to listen when she really needs to.
The next time your child comes to you and wants to tell you something, stop what you are doing and either sit down or look at him. If you can’t stop right then, pause what you are doing and tell her that you really want to hear what she has to say but it’s a bad time. Then tell her when you will be free and be specific- on 15 minutes, one hour. After you tell your child when you are free, then follow through. Don’t let her down.
We all battle to find the time and energy for connection our relationships. Every single one of us, that’s why we need to discipline ourselves to work on it.