There are times in every parent’s life when it feels as if the relationship we had imagined we would be having with our child is not the one we currently have. There can be many reasons for that, but generally it has something to do with a breakdown in communications (as is true in all of our relationships.)
Here are some ideas for how to improve things in your home, when they feel as if they have gone off track. They aren’t easy as 1-2-3, but if you follow through on them with consistency, you will find that connection will return in your relationship. Michael Swisher and I are currently writing a book that expands on the discussion of each of these topics. Click any topic to get more information, and watch for our book to be published in 2016.
- Make Time
- A crucial comment we hear from kids is that they wish their parents had more time for them. Time to really pay attention and listen. This means if you need to put down what you are doing or get away from the computer, do that. If you need to stay up past your bedtime, expect that. Kids are going to need to get things off their chest at the most unpredictable times.
- Listen without judgement
- Listening without judgment means that we don’t have to solve things for them (unless they ask). It means that they have someone with experience and our values to trust.
- Sometimes just listening is enough and sometimes we need to ask questions about what is important to them — their friends, music, sports, TV shows. This is called active listening. And it’s important to listen to these things without judgement.
- Acknowledge feelings (theirs and yours)
- It’s not uncommon in our race to heal their hurt feelings, or diminish our own worry, we trivialize what our kids are going through. It is crucial that we let them talk and talk about how they feel about emotional content, without changing the subject, or whitewashing the pain (or glory) they may be feeling.
- We can acknowledge our own feelings (not judgements) after they have been able to share and feel supported in theirs.
- Recognize the positive with positive encouragement and specific praise.
- Our kids need to know when they are doing it right. It’s not enough for us to believe that they should be. Our task is to recognize when they have accomplished or surpassed what we knew they could do, and when they make a difference others’ lives (including clearing the table without being asked.)
- Set appropriate limits
- Teenagers look to their parents to set limits, even as they are pushing against every one that we set. They are not trying to get us out of the way, they are testing to see if we will be there to catch them when they fail. Negotiating and setting appropriate limits helps kids to feel safer as they expand their own independence.
- Make Time