Parents today face many challenges when it comes to forming close relationships with their kids. Time constraints due to busy work and school schedules are part of the problem, but when parents do get to be with their little ones, they’re usually helping them with their schoolwork instead of connecting with them meaningfully.
It’s even harder if the children are older. Most teenagers prefer to hang out with their friends, and at home, they’re too preoccupied with social media or their tech devices to have a conversation with Mum or Dad. When teens have problems, it’s also natural for them to confide in their peers rather than their parents.
It’s not hard to have a stronger, deeper and more meaningful connection with your children. Make it easy for them to talk to you, respect them as individuals, and give them your time and attention, says Dr Lim Boon Leng, a psychiatrist at Dr BL Lim Centre for Psychological Wellness.
Invite Them To Open Up To You
Getting close to your kids, especially if they’re tweens or teens, takes time and effort. Instead of expecting them to open up to you, you should make the first move, by inviting them to share their thoughts and feelings with you and showing them that they can trust you.
“A simple ‘How was your day?’ is a good start, but follow up with questions about what they did, with whom, and so on,” Dr Lim suggests. “If their day didn’t go well, ask them how they felt and find out what you can do to help.”
Don’t Push It
Avoid excessive probing and invite them to open up when they’re relaxed (over some ice cream, perhaps). If they refuse, don’t get offended; just assure them that you’ll hear them out when they’re ready or encourage them to talk to another adult whom they trust, like an older cousin or an uncle or aunt. Dr Lim says to remind them that you care about them and want to help them, not judge or punish them.
“Be empathetic, understanding and positive when they do open up to you,” he adds. “Don’t take on an ‘I know best’ or ‘It’s my way or the highway’ attitude; use these conversations to impart important values to them and show them that they’re safe, loved and free to express their feelings.”
Respect Their Space And Privacy
Your kids are individuals who deserve privacy, and if you want them to trust you, it’s important to respect that there may be some things they just can’t talk to you about.
Of course, you still have an obligation to protect them and it’s your duty to intervene in situations that you feel might threaten their safety, says Dr Lim. So, discuss rules and boundaries with them – tell them what you’re comfortable or uncomfortable with, let them have a say in what they’re willing to open up to you about, and come up with some kind of joint agreement.
So for instance, your teen may not want you to go through their phone messages or social media accounts. “If this is a problem for you, explain why, and discuss a suitable compromise,” Dr Lim advises. “If you agree that you will not invade their privacy, stick to your promise, because it can be hard regaining their trust if you breach it during a moment of curiosity.”
Similarly, if your child is feeling down and requests to be left alone for a while, give them their space and let them know you’re there for them.
Spend Quality Time With Them
“Make it a point to understand what your children are interested in,” Dr Lim says. “If you can have a conversation with them about K-pop singers, online games and TikTok videos, they’ll feel more connected to you and may be more likely to open up to you.”
You should also try to have dinner as a family every night – this should be a tradition that’s established and protected dearly. Dinnertime is a good time to bond and converse with your children. Another way to strengthen the bond is to share common hobbies, taking staycations together, or even just watching the same TV shows. Let your kids choose what they want to do from time to time.
Finally, if your family uses a chat group on a messaging platform or has a dedicated family page on social media, Dr Lim says to make full use of it. “Even if your older kids don’t respond, it’s a good way to reach out to them and perhaps even share valuable or meaningful messages.”
How do you connect with your kids? Share your tips with us at firstname.lastname@example.org!