When I was in my twenties, there was a group of families I got to know pretty well. All the parents were around 10 to 15 years older than me. They were great examples of how to parent. However, even they had their issues. One particular couple expressed having trouble connecting with their daughter. I happened to be in their kitchen when they had a difficult exchange with her. After she stormed up to her room, the mom turned to me and said, “I wish I could go back to the days when they all wore footie pajamas and liked me.”
Many parents struggle to stay close with their children as they grow and become more independent. It’s not simple and there is no guarantee of success. However, if you are trying to figure out how to have a better relationship and stay connected with your kids as they get older, here are 10 ways.
1. Keep it real.
Talk to your kids in a manner that is not condescending. Open communication squashes so many potential issues. Have real and honest conversations at every possible chance. Do not be afraid to share stories from your childhood with them as examples. It lends you credibility in their eyes.
2. See the warning signs.
Some children just won’t tell you much no matter your efforts. It is important to know the warning signs of potential problems if this is the case. Click here to check out some possible warning signs. If your child exhibits these traits, consider it a nonverbal call for help. Answer the call.
3. Know their friends.Who your child hangs out with is a reflection of the direction his or her life is headed.
Who your child hangs out with is a reflection of the direction his or her life is headed. Make a point to get to know your kids’ closest friends. Invite them over for sleepovers. Take them to a ballgame. You need to know what happens in your kids’ social environment.
4. Get one-on-one time.
Spend quality time alone with each of your children. You might all have the same last name, but you have completely different personalities. “Middle child syndrome” starts when a kid gets lost in the crowd of competition for attention. Get to know each of your kids’ unique qualities.
5. Show unwavering commitment.
They are watching every single action you take and listening to every single word, even when you think they aren’t. It is not possible to be a part-time father or husband. Commit all of yourself to your family. Kids are so fragile. You are the strength they look to for security and hope.
6. Lift their spirits.
Consistently have a pleasant and fun-loving spirit with your children. If you have a great sense of humor, use it often with them. If you are more of a serious type, then use a warm smile to put them at ease. Big smiles and humor lighten tension and stress.
7. Be present.
Go to the honor roll ceremony, the t-ball game, the karate tournament. Kids’ events, no matter how small or big, are all big to kids. Who do they want there the most? Mom and Dad. Sometimes life will not let you, but attend as many as you possibly can. Take your camera and give big hugs.
8. Display affection.
Hug your daughter every day or somebody else will. Boys need big bear hugs as well. Children need lots of love and plenty of affection. This can be difficult for some men. We are raised to be strong, tough guys. Yet, emotion cannot always be displayed verbally. There must be a physical component as well. Those big hugs you give your children will do you both a lot of good.
9. Spiritual connection.
“The family that prays together stays together.” Family recognition of God creates a very strong bond. Don’t forget to break out “thou shalt honor your father and mother” whenever called for!
10. Support them.
All dads have a vision of who they would like their children to be. Rarely does that vision match reality. You might have dreamed your son would be a high school football hero. Instead, he is really into guitar and has very promising skills. Leave behind projecting your dreams onto your child. Embrace their dreams. Nurture them and support them. Show your pride no matter what stirs their personal passion.
Sound off: How have you stayed connected with your kids as they have grown older?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “How do you think you have changed in the past year?”