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10 Habits To Strengthen Your Relationship With Your Children

Mother and Daughter (Getty)
Mother and Daughter (Getty)

Sometimes relationships between parents and kids can be strained. Here are “10 Habits to Strengthen Your Relationship With Your Children” from Ahaparenting.com.

1. 12 hugs a day. Hug your child first thing in the morning, when you say goodbye, when you’re reunited, at bedtime, and often in between. If your tween or teen rebuffs your advances when they first walk in the door, realize that with older kids, you have to ease into the connection. Get them settled with a cool drink, and chat as you give a foot rub.

2. Connect before transitions. Kids have a hard time transitioning from one thing to another. If you look them in the eye, use their name, and play a bit to get them giggling, you’ll fill their cup and make sure they have the inner resources to manage themselves through a transition. Mornings go much easier when you start with a five minute snuggle upon awakening to help your child transition from sleep into the executive functions of dressing and teeth brushing.

3. Play. Laughter and rough-housing keep you connected with your child by stimulating endorphins and oxytocin in both of you. Making playfulness a daily habit also gives your child a chance to work through the anxieties and upsets that otherwise make them feel disconnected — and more likely to act out. And play helps kids want to cooperate.

4. Turn off technology when you interact with your child. Really. Your child will remember for the rest of their lives that they were important enough for you to turned off phones and music to listen to them. This is particularly important in the car, because the lack of eye contact in a car takes the pressure off, so kids (and adults) are more likely to open up and share.

5. Special time. Every day, 15 minutes with each child, separately.  Alternate doing what your child wants and doing what you want.  On their days, just pour your love into them and let them direct.  On your days resist the urge to structure the time with activities.  Instead, play  therapeutic “games” to help your child with whatever issues are “up” for them.

6. Welcome emotion. Sure, it’s inconvenient.  But your child needs to express their emotions or they’ll drive your child’s behavior.  So accept the meltdowns, don’t let the anger trigger you, and welcome the tears and fears that always hide behind the anger. Remember that you’re the one they trust enough to cry with, and breathe your way through it.  Afterwards, they’ll feel more relaxed, cooperative, and closer to you.

7. Listen, and Empathize. Connection starts with listening.  Bite your tongue if you need to. The habit of seeing things from your child’s perspective will ensure that you treat them with respect and look for win/win solutions.  It will help you see the reasons for behavior that would otherwise drive you crazy. And it will help you regulate your own emotions so when your buttons get pushed and you find yourself in “fight or flight,” your child doesn’t look so much like the enemy.

8. Slow down and savor the moment. Share the moment with your child: let him smell the strawberries before you put them in the smoothie.  Put your hands in the running water together and share the cool rush of the water. Smell his hair. Listen to his laughter. Look him in the eyes. Connect in the magnificence of the present moment. Which is really the only way we can connect.

9. Bedtime snuggle and chat. Set your child’s bedtime a wee bit earlier with the assumption that you’ll spend some time visiting and snuggling in the dark. Those companionable, safe moments of connection invite whatever your child is currently grappling with to the surface, whether it’s something that happened at school, the way you snapped at them this morning, or their worries about tomorrow’s field trip. Do you have to resolve their problem right then? No. Just listen. Acknowledge feelings. Reassure your child that you hear their concern, and that together you’ll solve it, tomorrow. The next day, be sure to follow up. You’ll be amazed how your relationship with your child deepens. And don’t give this habit up as your child gets older. Late at night is often the only time teens will open up.

10. Show up.  Most of us go through life half-present. But your child has only about 900 weeks of childhood with you before they leave your home.  They’ll be gone before you know it.  Try this as a practice:  When you’re engaged with your child, just be right here, right now.  You won’t be able to do it all the time.  But if you do it every day for a bit, you’ll find yourself doing it more and more. Because you’ll find it creates those moments with your child that make your heart melt.

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