Parenting is one of the hardest challenges in life, and there's a lot that can go wrong if you aren't prepared. The job of being a parent is one that never really ends, and it's important to work on your relationship with your kids at every stage of life.
It's important to remember that, as a parent, you have a great effect on your children's lives, from the name you give them to the examples you set in your own relationships. If you fall into toxic habits or neglect to put in a certain kind of effort, you may find yourself with a damaged relationship or even a large rift that's beyond repair. Here are some tips to ensure a healthy, strong, lifelong bond with your children, no matter their age.
Show an interest in their interests
Pay attention to what your child is up to outside of their relationship with you. Not only is it important to know what kind of media your child is consuming or what activities they're taking part in when your child is young, but at any age, it can be the key to connecting with them. Check out whatever your child is passionate about, and not only will you be showing an interest in their life, but it'll also be a way for them to feel more connected to you.
Don't give unsolicited opinions
Keeping your opinions to yourself can go a long way in maintaining harmony with your children. Unless they're quite young and in need of guidance, trust that your kids can make decisions for themselves in their personal lives. The older your child gets, the less in need they are of your advice when it comes to personal decisions unless you feel they are immediately in danger.
Give them space
Everyone needs alone time. Give your kids the room to do stuff on their own or with their friends, and if they're out of the house, don't constantly bombard them with phone calls or guilt trips about visiting. If your child is ever upset, you should also give them space to cool off and think about things for themselves.
Validate their feelings
All feelings are valid, and validation itself is extremely important in any relationship. You may want to encourage your kids when they're filled with self-doubt or clear up any miscommunications, but it's important to make sure you're not dismissing or minimizing their feelings, whether or not they even have anything to do with you specifically.
Accept their partner
Unless you're worried about abuse or any other type of danger to them, you should always accept your child's partner and try to work on your own relationship with them. This is someone whom your child loves and who loves them - something you already have in common.
Keep your promises
It's important for children of any age to know that they can rely on their parents. Keep any promises you make, and if for some reason you are forced to not follow through or show up on something, make sure you explain why and apologize with a promise to make it up to them.
Not only is it vital for parents to be reliable in terms of promises, but your kids should know that they can always rely on your word itself. Trust is the foundation of any healthy relationship, and if your children find that you are lying to them, it can damage your relationship quite irreparably and leave them feeling betrayed. Of course, that doesn't include the white lies it's OK to tell your kids when the need arises.
Encourage their dreams
Whatever dreams, hopes or resolutions your child may have, make sure they know that you have full faith in them. A child's confidence is first instilled in them by their parents, and at any age, we seek out our parents' approval and support. Without you, it'll be harder for your children to achieve whatever they want to.
Don't be punitive
While it is important to guide and encourage your children, you want to make sure that you don't do it in a way that's demoralizing or even causes them to resent you. There are ways to discipline your children - or draw boundaries once they're older - that don't include threats, hurtful words or emotional blackmail.
Be there when they need you
Another way of ensuring that your children see you as a reliable parent is to make sure you come through when they're in need. Whether it's in a physical manner such as helping bail them out of a sticky situation or in an emotional way such as being a shoulder to cry on when they're going through something rough, you also want to make sure that you're there for your kids without ever letting them feel ashamed or guilty. This ensures that they will turn to you in the future as well.
Respect their boundaries
Just as it's important to create boundaries in relationships with your friends and colleagues, boundaries are vital to familial relationships as well. If your child is busy, needs some space from you or has certain rules of engagement, prove that you respect them by respecting those boundaries. You'll find that when you show them this courtesy, your children are more comfortable around you and more willing to nurture an even deeper relationship.
Have some one-on-one time
Spending some quality one-on-one time is a great way to strengthen any bond. Take some time to get to know your child and do something fun without any siblings or even their other parent present. This will help emphasize your own special relationship with them and give you the chance to bond with each other apart from others.
Don't burden them emotionally
It's important to be honest about feelings, and even with young children, you should let them know if you're having a bad day so that they don't assume that they did anything wrong and take the blame themselves. However, it's not a good idea to go into details and burden your children with your own emotional issues. Even as adults, while it's OK to confide in your children every once in a while, they shouldn't feel responsible for taking care of you the way you are of them.
Don't pass off your responsibilities to them
Another example of parentification, or the role reversal in a child-parent relationship in which the former feels obliged to act as the latter, is when children are put into the caregiving roles like running larger errands, managing the household, or even taking on the responsibility of taking care of their siblings outside of occasional babysitting and normal sibling relationship dynamics. Not only can this cause undue stress for your children, but it is also damaging to your relationship, as it will skew the dynamic as well as possibly cause resentment.
Learn to apologize
Saying you're sorry can be very hard, especially if it's to someone over whom you see yourself as having authority. However, owning up to your own mistakes and acknowledging that you're only human can go a long way in earning your children's respect, as well as nurturing a relationship in which they know that you will put them before your own ego.
Your children will make mistakes too. Forgiveness is important in order to heal and move on, rather than allowing a rift to grow between you. By being a kinder person and forgiving your children for their transgressions, you will strengthen your relationship and prove to your children that you truly will always be there for them.
Many parents don't find physical affection to be particularly important, perhaps because their own parents didn't emphasize it either. However, hugs and kisses not only make people feel good and induce happiness hormones, but they help you bond with each other more too.
Tell them you love them
Sometimes it is necessary to be explicit about your feelings too. Tell your kids that you love them, and let them hear from you specifically how much you appreciate and respect them.
Be their champion
While it's important to hold your children accountable when they do mess up, it's also important to show that you trust them and have faith in them. If others are criticizing your children, don't just stand by without sticking up for them. If your child has done wrong, it's OK to acknowledge that and encourage them to apologize, but you shouldn't be the one to lead the mob. If your child has not done wrong and tells you so, believe them instead of taking others' word for it without solid proof. Doing otherwise can cause them to feel betrayed or worry that you are siding with others over them.
Laugh with them
Laughter truly is the best medicine and can heal many a rift or wound. Even if your relationship with your kid is pretty great, checking out a funny movie, show or standup together is a great idea for a bonding experience. Sharing jokes or laughing together over memories or even current affairs can go a long way for not only helping your children feel at ease around you, but it's also great for your health.
More from The Active Times:
30 Things to Do Now That You're an Empty-Nester
Top 20 Tips for Healthy Aging
20 Tips for Surviving a Family Vacation
Secrets Your Financial Planner Wants You to Know
25 Tips From Our Grandparents on How to Make Marriage Last