How do I have a better relationship with my children?
You love your children. Little balls of emotions and hormones that they are. You love them more than anything else in the world. When you feel the distance between you and your children growing, it can be heartbreaking. Kids grow up fast and change every step of the way. A strong relationship in the early years of development can help to build a connection that will last a lifetime. Through the good times and the bad. If you’re struggling a little, don’t worry, it’s a long road and there’s help at hand.
Time Conquers All
The most important and consistent person in a child’s life will always be their parents. Even in the awkward teenage years, a parent must be their shadow. You have a massive influence over your children, consciously and unconsciously. To develop trust and a strong bond you need to put quantity before quality. You’ll play many roles to your child; good guy, bad guy, role model, friend. One you must always be, is consistent in your presence. People often try to set aside ‘quality time’ with their children, and while it’s important to have periods of close bonding, a true bond is forged over time. You need to be there for the highs and the lows; the defining moments and the daily grind.
Treat them like a person
Children, especially young children, are very malleable. Everything in the world is new to them; sights, sounds, colours and concepts. Some of the things they’ll see and experience can be hard for them to comprehend, and a parent’s first instinct is often to protect them from all of this. Children have more intelligence than we give them credit for, and their perspectives are often more insightful than those of jaded adults. That’s not to imply that children should be unduly exposed to harsh realities to harden them, or treated the way one would treat an adult, but they should be treated like a person with their own perspective and something to offer. Children develop a sense of self very early on, and whilst their attitudes will vary severely as they grow, parents should take the time to understand and, above all else, respect them.
Be communicative, not punitive
From time to time, you’ve got to lay down the law. Children need boundaries and rules, and these can still be set and upheld whilst affording your children some respect. Punishing children shouldn’t be done out of malice or enacted by isolating them. Your child loves you, even when they’re screaming the walls down, and you have to let slights go whilst making sure they don’t go unremarked upon. If you’re punishing your child, make it short term and make it clear why it is happening. Don’t hang a bad act over their head. Explain what they’ve done wrong, and most importantly why what they did was wrong. Clarity is important. Be consistent in your actions.
Recognise, comment and encourage
Just as you should recognise when a child is acting out, it’s even more important to recognise their successes. Happiness is a greater motivator for personal development and good behaviour than punishment is. This doesn’t mean doting on children or flowering every act with an overabundance of hugs and kisses. Be proud of them, and let them know when they should be proud and happy with their accomplishments. Nurture their interests and encourage their passions. The ways in which you do this will change through the years, but it’s an important habit to keep. A teenager may be more in the habit of eye-rolling at praise, but deep down they will still appreciate it. Whilst you’ll have to work out for yourself the exact hows, whens and whats of your praise, you should remain consistently supportive. You are their rock, the first person in their lives, and you need to be their biggest supporter.
Know when to give them space
This is especially true for teenagers. From time to time, a child just needs space, and your relationship will be strengthened by respecting that. This doesn’t mean being distant or unavailable. If your child is upset or angry and rejects offers of help, often the best form of support is to just let them work it out. Watch from afar, and when they’re ready they’ll come to you. The same applies to children's personal freedom. Often parents are concerned about being overbearing or restrictive. Falling too far the other way though, acting like a cool friend who sets little to no boundaries, isn’t a solution to the problem. Letting children get into situations in which they lack the necessary life skills to handle will only harm their self confidence. You should be friends with your child, but you are a parent first and that entails a very different and more complex relationship. Finding a balance between distance, intimacy and authority can feel like walking a tightrope. It comes down, again, to respect and a mutual understanding that can only be built with time.
Learn to recognise a deeper problem
This is hard. Really hard. Especially for first time parents. It’s easy to freak out over every upset and issue. To think that your child is now ruined because you didn’t let them watch a third episode of Peppa Pig, the fallout of which involved Mr. Clops the stuffed horse being thrown at your head with remarkable accuracy. Fights and spats are usually fickle and temporary, but it’s important to know the patterns of your child's behaviour. Younger children have a greater reliance on their parents, their everyday life relies on parental care and attention. But for bigger kids it’s a different story. Really this comes down to, once again, the time you put in. To really know your child you need to be present in their lives consistently, in one form or another, and this will allow you to separate short term issues from more persistent ones. As a society our understanding and respect for mental health issues is growing with each passing day, but we still have a long way to go. It can be difficult for children to speak out about these issues, and it can be hard for parents to broach the subject with them. Know the signs and know your child and when they aren’t themselves. The best way to do this is to…
Always. If your child is talking to you, it's important, even if it doesn’t seem that way. If it’s a five year old showing you the painting they did today or a thirteen year old asking about why there’s suddenly hair everywhere, you need to have your ears tuned and your mind open. You are the anchor in your child's life and in many ways, their first and oldest friend. They will seek approval, guidance and advice, even in the small and insignificant. You need to show an interest in that, and though other elements of life; bills, work and other stresses, may seem more important, there is always time to listen.
If you would like to know more details or information we recommend you get in touch with Dr Rosina McAlpine. Rosina is extremely approachable. She provides an online course and does a lot of work with corporate companies who invest in the whole person (inside and outside work).