Maintaining a healthy parent-child relationship isn’t easy.
Parenting is difficult and stressful. Children (and parents!) can be difficult and stressful. Sometimes, it’s tempting to give up or give in, particularly when you’re battling a tween or teen boy who has way more energy than you do. But investing time and effort into creating and sustaining a healthy parent-child relationship will actually make it easier to withstand struggles. Here are some tips on how to keep your parent-child relationship strong:
Spare Some Time To Spend With the Children
Spending time with the children is crucial. It will help develop a healthy parent-child relationship which will be beneficial to all of you in many ways. Unfortunately, adults these days are pulled in a multitude of directions, and many parents face external pressure to focus on work and career — with little to no support for their role as parents.
It’s up to you to prioritize your family. Make time for family meals. (Can’t make dinner? Have a family breakfast instead! Breakfast cereal counts). Make time for your kids on your days off. The love between you and your child will blossom with time together, and that love is the foundation for a strong, healthy relationship.
Want to get closer to your son? Explore new activities (say, fishing) together. Plan and prepare together. If you’re going out fishing, read the Fishing Guide together for teamwork before embarking on the actual activity.
Take Time To Understand Your Child
Make sure you take time to understand your son. Believe it or not, he may be eager to share his life with you. Boys, though, shut down if they feel unheard or misunderstood. If your son doesn’t believe that you see or understand him as a unique human being, you’re going to have a hard time connecting.
Your child is not a mirror of yourself, so stop projecting your feelings and thoughts onto him. Instead, acknowledge his emotions as real, even if they are different from what you would feel under the same circumstances. Let him know that you understand his feelings by reflecting what he has said. If your child is upset, don’t dismiss or minimize his feelings. Doing so will only make the situation worse and damage the relationship in a more profound way than if you had simply accepted his statement at face value.
Understand Your Role in the Different Stages of Your Child’s Life
As your son grows, his relationship with you will change. Understanding his stage of life and the different ways a parent can be present will help keep your bond strong throughout all stages.
During the first year, or even before birth, you should focus on being a constant in your child’s life. Then, as he grows up and leaves home for college or work, continue to stay connected, while giving him space to navigate his own life. (Yes, it’s more difficult than it sounds.) Your relationship may feel a bit awkward during periods of transition, but trust the healthy parent-child relationship you’ve nurtured throughout the years.
If you’re really struggling with your parent-child relationship, don’t be afraid to seek help. Talking to a friend, particularly one with slightly older children, may be helpful. (You can connect with lots of “boy parents” in our Building Boys FB group.)
Professional counseling can also be helpful — and you don’t need to convince your son to go with you. If your son is resistant to counseling, schedule an appointment for yourself. A counselor can help your reframe your perspective and teach you techniques you can use to manage your emotions when you interact with your son.
Adjusting your expectations may be helpful as well. Some parents (and children!) have unrealistic expectations for the parent-child relationship. Learning more about your son’s developmental stage and what he needs at various points in this lifespan can be life-changing. A book like The First-Time Mom’s Guide to Raising Boys: Practical Advice for Your Son’s Formative Years, by Building Boys founder Jennifer L.W. Fink, can demystify the tween years and help you create a healthy parent-child relationship.
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