At one point or another all parents fear that they aren’t connecting with their children as well as they want to. You might start to worry that you don’t know them as well as you should, or that they may be doing things that you would not recommend. The fear can be almost paralyzing. The good news is that this problem can be solved, and it isn’t even difficult. By even wanting to connect with the children in your life, you are already making great strides toward your goal. It is important to care about them and what goes on around them. Take time to realize that you’re doing a good thing, and that should help boost your confidence on the matter.
Talk (and Listen) to Them
The most basic way to connect with your children is to talk to them. Tell them about your day and ask about theirs. Try to remember everything they tell you. Children have a memory that just won’t quit sometimes, and they expect you to have the same. Ask them questions. It’s important for people to feel like the person they are talking to cares about what they have to say. Asking questions about what they told you it proves you were listening and want to know more. Don’t expect your kids to tell you everything about themselves in one sitting. It takes time to build the kind of connection you are looking for, especially with teens and older children who are still feeling rebellious.
Take an Interest in their Interests
Sometimes just talking doesn’t work for all kids. They may have built their guard up too high to realize that you just want to help them. In this case it may be a good idea to consider doing something else together. If your child likes to play video games, ask for the second controller and play too. Maybe help them with an art project they’re working on. You can try to get involved in anything they like to do. They may still try to shut you out sometimes, but eventually you will find something to do together.
Just try not to seem judgmental about their hobbies. If they aren’t hurting anyone, then you shouldn’t be concerned. If they start to feel that you don’t appreciate what they love, they will start to push you further away.
Invite Them Into Your World
If you can’t find common ground in the things they like to do, maybe you should look for some in the things you enjoy. It’s not uncommon for children to forget that parents or guardians are people too. If you’re willing to show them who you are, then perhaps they will open up and do the same. You can invite them to one of your favorite shows or sporting events. Let them meet some of your coworkers. If your children are old enough, then you can take them with you to the gym or your yoga class. Anything can work as long as you can get them interested.
Find a New Hobby
You may find that you simply have no current interests in common with your child. That’s OK. In this case, you can talk to them about finding something new for the two of you to do together. Try to find something that neither of you have done and you both find at least mildly interesting, and start together. Neither of you will be the leader in this activity because no one has more experience. Even if you find out that you both hated the activity, you at least have a mutual experience to work with.
Guilt is Not a Weapon
Never send your children on a guilt trip. It’s a cheap trick that will only cause them to resent you in the long run. Make it clear that you want to spend time with them and get to know them, but don’t try to make them feel bad if it doesn’t work out right away. It may take a few tries but you’ll wear them down eventually and they’ll give you a chance.
There’s a Time For Friendship and a Time For Parenting
It’s great to be your child’s friend. The feeling is unmatched. But it can be easy to take it too far. You should never forget that you are a guardian first. You are there primarily to see to it that the child in your care is safe and grows up well. A balance must be found between parenting and friendship. You need your child to trust you enough to tell you about the things going on around you but also to feel safe enough to seek true guidance from you.
Don’t Get Discouraged
Kids can be difficult. It may seem that no matter what you try, you’re still feeling just as distant from them as when you started. Don’t give up. They know what you’re trying to do, and on some level, they appreciate it, even if they don’t make it obvious right now. If nothing else, they will at least think of you when they face any struggles and remember that at least one person cares for them. Sometimes that’s enough.