Do you ever wonder as a Mom or Dad how you can truly connect with kids and be the parent?
It goes without saying that all of us want a deep, meaningful connection with our kids.
But let’s be honest. It can get harder when you start to enter the tween or teen years.
Not only are kids changing, they’re just, quite frankly, busy.
They’re in sports and clubs, more attached to their cell phones, and often less interested in spending quality time with you, mom and dad.
So how can you maintain that connection, through the teen years and beyond?
Licensed psychologist Dr. Margaret DeLong shared some insightful wisdom for parents on how to connect with kids.
Connect on a Daily Basis
“It’s important to stay connected on a daily basis, and it doesn’t need to be difficult. [You can start with] things that are already happening: driving to [sporting events] and other various activities, making use of that time, having some simple rules like no headphones and no iPhones or devices during [those] five or ten-minute car rides.
It’s a missed opportunity to connect when children are listening to music, texting their friends on things that we never used to have growing up with our parents. So just having very simple rules and making it a rule, so it doesn’t need to be something that they argue about when they get in the car. It’s just an agreement that when you’re going on a short car ride, no devices.
Make use of what is already existing, so short travel time as well as dinners. It’s difficult to have dinner every single night together, but at least a few times a week and making the very most of that time.
Once again, the device is not just out of sight, but also out of earshot. Turn off the notifications because nothing can zap a family interaction faster than hearing that notification going off. [This applies to] the parents and the children both. So if the parent is responding to a work email and dinner’s ready, shut it down, put the put the computer away, really make that family time.
There’s a great little box that’s called TABLETOPICS, and it comes in a variety of different topics and one of them is for family dinners. That can be a great way to get a conversation going if you’re at a loss for what to talk about. Other times just going around the table and talking about what you’re grateful for can be a nice topic of conversation.
Bedtime is also a great time to connect, so that even when teens are having a rough day they know that every night they will have at least some private time with Mom or Dad before they go to bed. And they might not always say that they want it, but when they can expect that it’s going to happen at the end of the day, it’s something that provides some reassurance to them.”
Start a Family Ritual
“By rituals, that really just means a routine. So because children like predictability, they thrive on predictability, very simple daily tasks can become a routine.
For example, brushing the teeth.
That can be a silly parent-child interaction time for toddlers who don’t want to brush their teeth. A parent can make it silly and that can be one way that they have a family ritual.
It’s particularly important for young children to have a routine at bedtime, but that can be a really special parent-child bonding time.
It doesn’t have to be so difficult…
A family might do Friday night bowling or Tuesday Tacos. Whatever it may be, getting silly.
Once a month, my family has dessert for dinner, and the kids, even though they’re teens, they love it and look forward to it. It’s silly, but it’s fun and it’s something that my family has grown accustomed to.”
Start a Parent-Child Journal
“Sometimes words don’t come easily, especially as the kids get older. But something might be on their mind, and they just have difficulty getting the conversation going.
So when it’s used on a regular basis, it’s just something they’ve grown accustomed to. It doesn’t have to be something difficult. It can be a message that says ‘I love you’ and the mom or a child sticks it under the other person’s pillow.
Sometimes it can be ‘Mom, I need to talk to you,’ because they have a hard time initiating the conversation verbally. So if it’s left for the parent, then they can follow through and ask ‘what did you want to talk about,’ kind of taking the pressure off of the teen.
It’s just a method of going back and forth with conversation when words are difficult, especially for difficult topics as teens get older [and are facing more challenging issues like] sexual interaction, substance abuse, anything that might be on their mind. It’s just one way to ease into that conversation.”
Summary: How to Connect with Kids
As Dr. DeLong points out, a strong parent-child relationship has an impact on not only the teen years but long into the future.
“All of the research shows that the better relationship that a teen has with their parents, the better the long-term outcomes, not just through their teen years, but the research also shows that it’s long lasting into adulthood. And parents are going to be around for a long time. Friends might come and go boyfriends will come and go but the parent and child relationship does not disappear. It is something that is long lasting and it’s well worth maintaining and fostering a very positive relationship.”
Some strategies Dr. DeLong suggests for maintaining that connection with your kids are:
- Connecting on a daily basis (even just during short, routine moments of contact)
- Starting a family ritual
- Starting a parent-child journal
What does your family do to stay connected?
Let us know in the comments below!