If you are looking for ways to better relate to and get connected with your kids, many of the parents I have worked with over the years have found the 7 strategies listed below to be highly effective.
Live, Work and Relate Well!
Get Up… off the couch, or away from the computer. Connecting with your kids, most of all, takes paying attention to them. Distractions like TV, work, computer games, or phone calls will rob you of time and energy your kids need, deserve and enjoy.
Get Down… to their level. Remember what your first day of school was like? Or that whole Junior High experience? In order to connect with your kids, try to see their world the way they see it. Just because you’re pretty sure there’s no monster under the bed doesn’t mean your child doesn’t need you to stoop down and take a look. Your child will be more open with you if you respect their feelings, no matter how immature they are right now.
Get Around…and have adventures together. Going places and doing activities together gives you shared experiences to talk about. Movies and shows, museums, trips, hikes, and sporting events all give you opportunity to get your kids’ opinions and share yours. Even the things that go wrong create unity and topics of discussion – ever been caught in the rain on a camping trip? Strangely enough, shared “disasters” can become your favorite family memories.
Get Silly… even if you have to embarrass yourself a little. Knock-knock jokes may be boring to you, but a 4 year old thinks they’re hilarious. If you clown around a little with your pre-teen, she may roll her eyes, but some day she’ll appreciate your efforts to relate to her. Shared laughter creates connection, and being willing to be vulnerable helps your child see that you have put them first, and they’re more likely to feel safe sharing important things with you.
Get Serious… because life isn’t all fun and games. Just like you, your child is faced at times with important decisions, painful experiences and dangerous temptations. Creating quiet, uninterrupted opportunities to talk heart-to-heart on a regular basis will greatly improve the likelihood that kids will share with you what they’re worried about, thinking about or brokenhearted about. Listening to them without criticism or judgment gives you credibility when you need to discuss concerns, life lessons, values and disciplinary issues with them. A good connection is not just one-way!
Get Real… because nothing will disconnect you from your kids faster than mixed messages. To maintain your credibility, say what you mean, and mean what you say. Follow through on warnings of discipline and promises of benefits. Make sure there’s no disparity between what you say you believe and the way you live. When you make a mistake or regret your behavior (and you will) offer a sincere apology. You’ll earn your kids’ respect and gain their trust if they know you’re doing the best you can.
Get Going… even if you haven’t felt like your communication with your kids is all it should be. Whether they’re still little tykes or already grown, today is a great day to strengthen your connection with your kids!