Beyond raising a child who behaves well and lives a meaningful life, parents want something else. They need to feel connected with their children. Here’s how you can tell if you have that special type of relationship with your children.
1. Do you enjoy being around your child? Do you laugh often and just get silly with each other? Do you appreciate the moment rather than lament what you don’t have? Parents who have a strong relationship with their kids enjoy being around them. Parents adjust their priorities to be with their family rather than spend time on the golf course or work extra hours. As their children enter adulthood, parents go out of their way to email, text, or visit often. Kids reciprocate in a similar fashion.
2. Is there mutual respect between you and your child? Are there clear and appropriate boundaries in your relationship? Do you respect your child’s privacy and allow your child to accept greater responsibility as she matures? When there is mutual respect in a family, a parent does not aspire to be their child’s best friend. Rather, the parent embraces their role as disciplinarian, coach, and mentor. The child may not always like the rules, but understands and respects their parent’s expectations.
3. Do you have an honest relationship with your child? Are you an ethical person? Do you acknowledge and apologize when you’ve made a mistake? Does your child do the same with you? Trust built upon honesty is the foundation of all human relationships. You can’t have a good relationship with your child if there is pretense or deceitfulness. This doesn’t mean that you have to answer all of your kids’ questions about your drug use or sexual history. It’s fine to say that some things are private. However, you can’t have a good relationship with your kids if you cheat on your spouse or pretend that you are something you are not.
4. Do you allow your child to know the real you, and does your child let you into her world? When your kids are young, it’s natural to want to protect them from the bad side of life. As kids enter their preteen years, it’s important for them to see you deal with anger, depression, and frustration. Talk with them about your hopes and fears, as well as what gives you pride and satisfaction. The best way to get your children to let you into their world is to allow them into your world. When your child offers an opinion, seek to understand more and judge less.
5. Is there mutual resilience within the family? Raising kids is tough work. On many occasions, there will be intense emotions, hurt feelings, and mutual frustration. When that occurs, do those feelings linger on for days or weeks, or do you and your child bounce back quickly and resume your positive relationship?
Avoid exaggerating the situation when problems come up. Keep a calm and balanced demeanor and keep things in context. Give yourself a time out to calm down.
Next week: Questions from readers