Let’s be honest: it’s not always easy to get along with your child. Every parent knows that kids have their bad days—they can be defiant, unreasonable, and even mean. But that doesn’t mean you love them any less. While conflicts are normal and sometimes unavoidable, it can also put a strain on your parent-child relationship.
Since the global outbreak of COVID-19 and the lockdowns that followed, there’s been no shortage of stress for people of all ages. And with families cooped up at home and having to adjust to new routines, it’s not a surprise to see tension build up in some households. So how do you strengthen the bond with your child during these challenging times?
1. Talk about all issues.
Even though children don’t have the same obligations as adults, they still experience stress and anxiety. It may be due to a problem with their friends, news about the pandemic, or concerns about school.
When you get older, you gain perspective on your problems and can understand that one issue is not the end of the world. But children don’t have that advantage—every problem is happening to them for the first time, and it often feels so much bigger than them. Sitting down with your child to talk these issues out can help them manage their stress. For example, you can help your child transition back to school by discussing what concerns them about their education and/or peers.
Try to practice active listening and empathizing with your child. Regular communication will set up a strong foundation for the later years when they start dealing with more grown-up issues.
2. Always remind them you love them.
As children age, they have different reactions to the phrase “I love you”. When they’re young, they might gleefully say it back; as teenagers, they might grumble and roll their eyes. Regardless, it remains important to reassure your child that you do love them—even when they throw tantrums, struggle at school, or say something that they wish they could take back. That sense of security will help develop a trusting and lifelong parent-child relationship.
If various conflicts make this conversation difficult, family counseling may be a fitting solution. Both of you can express your emotions and work through issues with a neutral third-party (a therapist).
It’s easy to express your love when things are going well, but it can be tougher when your child is acting up. However, that only makes it more important. Pair the phrase “I love you” with a warm hug for extra emphasis.
3. Set clear rules.
It’s hard enough for children to follow rules as it is, but it is even harder if the rules aren’t consistent. One week, it may be perfectly fine for them to use their tablet at the table—the next, it lands them in a time-out.
When you punish your child for misbehaving, try to make sure the rules remain consistent. This makes it easier for your child to understand what’s acceptable and what’s not. It will prevent them from feeling resentful because of an unfair punishment.
4. Make quality time one of your priorities.
As parents, we lead busy lives—many of us juggle full-time jobs, daily errands, and looking after our kids. It’s tough to find an hour to just be with your child.
But even if you’re strapped for time, a little goes a long way. It's hows that you prioritize the relationship with your child over your other obligations.
When you’re making time for your child, make sure to set aside any distractions. That includes your phone, other chores, and even cooking dinner.
If there’s something you really must do (like fold laundry or meal prep), try to involve your child in the activity! Completing tasks together can create a sense of teamwork, which is an effective way to bond.
5. Don’t forget to have fun!
Most of all, children just want to play! You can make fun memories with your child that they’ll never forget.
We encounter hiccups with most aspects of our lives, from our marriages to our jobs. The relationships we have with our children are no different. It can be helpful to step away from the serious stuff and try to have fun together instead.
Every kid is different; your child might enjoy reading a book, playing a video game, or baking cookies together. Find what works for both of you and schedule time for it each week.
All parents want their children to live long and fulfilling lives—and they want to be part of it each step of the way. Healthy relationships start at a young age. Supporting your child during their developmental years allows you to cultivate a strong, loving parent-child relationship that will stand the test of time.
Our special thanks to Veronica W. for contributing this insightful post on how to strengthen your parent-child relationship. Veronica is a childhood educator and blogging enthusiast. You can find more of her favorite articles on Kidthink, a mental health treatment center that offers clinical treatment of mental illness in children aged twelve and under, along with community outreach and training.
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