7 ways to connect with your child

How to connect with your child.
How to connect with your child.  Photo: Getty Images

Having an amazing relationship with your child is the foundation for everything we want to accomplish as parents. Here's how to make that happen.

1. Be real. Great relationships are built upon honesty, caring, and communication. Be genuine with your child. Never say one thing when you mean another. Accept the reality that sometimes the truth may hurt. The uneasiness caused by honesty is better than the comfort resulting from deceit.

2. Show interest. The way kids know that we care about them is when we show interest in their activities, thoughts and feelings. Solicit their opinions, but avoid questions that can be answered by a simple yes or no. Try beginning sentences with "what," or "how." Don't barrage your child with questions. They will feel interrogated and tune out.

3. Share information about yourself. Your goal is to build a relationship, not get into your child's head. Conversations are a mutual sharing of ideas and feelings. This doesn't mean a 15-minute lecture about the hardships you experienced as a child. Keep your comments brief, and respond to what's of interest to your child.

This will be uncomfortable at times. How do we handle personal questions about misdeeds, sexual activity, or drug use? Declining to answer a question is always an acceptable response, both for you and your child. "I understand why you'd want to know when I first had sex, but I'd rather not talk about that."

4. Follow your child's lead. The day after a shooting at a school in our community, I spoke with two junior high students. One was absolutely engaged by the incident, and our conversation led to a discussion of all kinds of interesting issues. The other youngster had absolutely no interest in what happened. He was preoccupied by the start of baseball spring training.

It's impossible to predict what may be of interest to your child. Never try to force an issue. If you try enough topics, something will eventually stick.

5. Use naturally occurring events. Learn about what's of interest to your child. As a life-long Boston Red Sox fan, it was unpleasant for me to read about the New York Yankees spring training. However, I did so as a way to connect with a patient obsessed with the dreaded Yankees!

6. Don't just talk. Do stuff. Relationships develop not just during conversations, but by engaging in mutually satisfying activities. I've found that taking trips with my kids to be a great way to enhance our relationship.

7. Use the L word. Our children want our acceptance and love. Tell your kids you love them, particularly during life's tough times.

The New York Times

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