Do you have a strong relationship with your child? Even if your answer is “yes,” there is always room for improvement. The relationship between you and your child is something that requires time, effort and patience. Remember, Rome was not built in a day.
By putting forth the effort and establishing small habits, you begin to lay an indestructible foundation. A foundation that will not crumble, even when challenges come between you and your child — particularly during those difficult teenage years.
To improve your relationship with your child, you need to start today. Make a commitment right now to focus on your relationship. Here are 10 ways you can start without disrupting your day-to-day life.
- Put away your phone
You have heard countless times to put away your phone and focus on your child. But do you understand just how important this truly is? According to Pew Research Center, 77 percent of Americans own a smartphone. Additionally, 69 percent of U.S. adults use social media of some kind.
During a study at the Boston Medical Center, researchers looked at the behaviors of children and adults — particularly when adults used their smartphones during dinner. Researchers found that 40 out of 55 caregivers looked at their mobile devices during the meal. Forty percent of those who used their mobile device at the table were completely distracted by their phone and did not pay any attention to their children.
Research shows that parents are becoming totally engrossed by mobile devices and are depriving their children of the relationships their children desperately need. Furthermore, many studies show that when parents are distracted, their children are more likely to act up and participate in poor behavior. Even the parents, when distracted, are more likely to respond to their children harshly.
If you want to improve your relationship with your child, evaluate your own use with mobile devices and social media. What is it that is capturing all your attention? An eye-opening exercise may be to keep a journal for a week, writing down all the time spent on a mobile device. While you may think it isn’t much — maybe just a few minutes at a time — your time spent on mobile devices may surprise you. These few minutes add up to an extensive amount of time on your phone and little time with your children.
- Play, play, play
Playtime with parents has many benefits that playing with other children — even siblings — does not. According to Psychology Today, parent and child playtime improves and develops a child’s social interactions. Parents also have more experience than children, which can often help ignite a child’s imagination. Even more, parent-child playtime helps enhance a child’s self-confidence and self-esteem unlike playtime with another child.
As a parent, there are many ways you can play with your child that can be enjoyable for everyone involved. If your child is adamant about one certain activity, and you find it absolutely dreadful, set a timer and tell your child you will play until the timer goes off. Then, you can complete your own personal activities or choose a new activity to enjoy with your child. This will help you limit boring and tedious activities.
- Eat dinner together
Family dinner is a magical tool that benefits your child in countless ways. Not only does it lower their chance of drug use, eating disorders and obesity, it also leads to higher self-esteem and better academic and social performance.
Family dinner provides the perfect environment to talk to you children. If you make the dinner table a distraction-free zone, you can enjoy meaningful conversations. You can learn about your child’s friends, worries, upcoming activities and fears, and avoid competing against TVs, computers and phones.
You don’t have to eat dinner every night together. Studies show that just five meals a week provide plenty of benefits. Plus, if eating breakfast or lunch works better for your family’s schedule, then enjoy those meals together. The important thing is you are creating a relaxed, stress-free and comfortable environment for your entire family to enjoy together.
- Stop nagging
As a parent, you may find yourself constantly nagging your child to complete their chores or school projects. You may feel like a broken record asking your child to make their bed or do their homework. Unfortunately, constant nagging creates a negative environment for the entire family. It generates feelings of anger and resentment between everyone involved.
Keep in mind that while there is a time and place for pushing your child, be mindful of how often you are constantly on their case. Nagging is not an effective form of communication and as your children grow older, you may find yourself nagging your children even more.
Below are a few tips to help you achieve more effective communication, without constantly badgering your children.
- Focus on what your child is doing at the time. If he or she is doing something productive, let them finish their current tasks. If they are not, then provide some assistance and help them finish the task faster.
- Watch your tone. How you ask and remind children can make all the difference in how they respond to your request.
- Choose your battles wisely. Some things aren’t worth the fight. If it isn’t that big of a deal, let it go and keep yourself and your child happy.
- Laugh together
Smile and laugh together every single day. Watch a funny video or share a joke. Laughter has countless physical health, mental health and social benefits. It not only diffuses conflict between individuals and improves one another’s mood, but it promotes bonding and eases tension.
To bring laughter into your relationship, think of activities that you and your child would enjoy. If your child is older, go to a comedy club or watch a funny movie together. Younger children are easy to please. You can have a dance party or perform funny tricks and dance moves for one another. Laughter is contagious and creates a fun and cheerful environment. If there is little laughter in your home, adding just a small amount of humor can change the entire dynamic in your family.
Physical contact between you and your child is crucial. Things such as a hug, high-five or kiss on the forehead offer excellent health benefits such as lowering heart rate, boosting the immune system and decreasing stress hormones. It also gives your child a sense of love and security. Give your child a hug when they come home from school or when they wake up in the morning. If your child lets you, kiss their forehead when you tuck them in at night and give them a high-five when they do something great.
The amount of physical affection between you and your child will vary depending on yourself and your child. If your son or daughter is not a touchy person, start small and just aim for one to two hugs or high-fives each day.
- Daily one-on-one time
Set aside time each day and focus exclusively on your child. You may ask them about their day, help them with a school project or go for a drive together. No matter what activity you choose, let them control this time and you simply follow their lead.
You don’t have to dedicate hours to your child each day. When you start small and spend just five or more minutes, you’ll find yourself enjoying and looking forward to those few daily moments. But, make sure those are quality minutes. As a parent, you need to listen, love and be present in your child’s life. You’ll find you will have an easier time completing your parental responsibilities when you take the time for your child and are fully present.
- Show your child that you make mistakes too
Nobody is perfect and we all make mistakes — every single day. When you make a mistake, point it out to your child. If you lose your temper or act inappropriately in front of your child, apologize. Take responsibility for your actions and ask for forgiveness.
When you point out your mistakes to your child, you help them understand that you don’t expect perfection and failure is a reality of life. If your child makes a mistake, feels upset or is angry, validate her feelings.
- Work on yourself
You cannot fill up others — whether physically, mentally or spiritually — unless you are full yourself. We cannot better our relationships unless we better ourselves.
You need to make yourself and your well-being a priority. When women don’t take care of themselves, they develop feelings of resentment, low self-confidence and anger toward their family members and their circumstances. The relationship with yourself and your own well-being should be a priority in your life.
Remember, that you aren’t being selfish by taking time for yourself. You are becoming more energetic, active and closer to accomplishing your goals and taking care of your family. Self-care doesn’t have to cost any money or take much time. Below are a few self-care activities that are simple, take a short amount of time and are free or cost very little.
- Write in a journal.
- Go for a walk outside or sit in your backyard and enjoy nature.
- Enjoy a warm bath.
- Listen to or play some music on your favorite instrument.
- Work in your yard.
- Work on your favorite hobby.
- Take a nap.
- Be realistic
Parenting is overwhelming and is no easy challenge. We set high expectations for our children, and we can lose our patience with them quickly. Unfortunately, when we lose our temper, we become scary, frightening and angry. Our children may avoid approaching us and limit communication with us — no matter what their request or need may be.
When parenting overwhelms us, be realistic and don’t expect perfection. Sit back and evaluate the situation. For example, if your three year old is throwing a fit over his block tower falling down, don’t lose your temper even though the crying is driving you crazy. Remember your child is only three years old. Or, if your teenager is lying about their grades, consider the situation. Why do they feel the need to lie? Are there changes in your home and family that are affecting your child’s performance?
While you should not create excuses for your child’s poor behavior, being realistic and evaluating the situation can help you stay calm and communicate appropriately with your child. When we are angry and don’t clearly examine the situation, we are more likely to say hurtful words or use a negative tone.
If you don’t see drastic improvements after implementing a few of the above habits and ideas into your daily life, take heart. Don’t give up and don’t be discouraged. Relationships are fragile and a strong one can take a long time to develop. Be patient and press on. You’ll see results, even if those results are small.
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