There is no relationship more important to a child than those with their parents. A good parent-child bond is a strong foundation upon which your child can better explore and understand the world around them, as well as explore and understand themselves. Like any other relationship, it takes work to build.
Whether you’re a single parent, live under the same roof as their other parent, or are separated or divorced, here are six meaningful ways to strengthen your relationship with your child.
How to Strengthen Your Relationship with Your Child
1. Play Together
At any age, play is an incredibly crucial part of your child’s development. As parents, it’s easy to get caught up in providing the basic necessities your child needs to survive, but getting down on their level to enjoy fun, playful time together is one of the best ways to encourage a better bond.
Younger children may want to build a tall tower with blocks, while your teenager could be drawn to a visit to an escape room. Find out what interests your child, and suggest activities or outings that will allow you to give your child your undivided attention doing something that they love.
2. Take Time to Listen
Sometimes, all you have to do is be there. Your child has a lot going on in their world. Ask open-ended questions about their friends, school, hobbies, or extracurricular activities, to encourage a flow of conversation that will go beyond simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers. Listen to their thoughts and feelings with empathy, allowing the conversation to stay centered on your child and their experiences rather than your ideas or advice about them.
3. Find Their Love Language
Long thought to be reserved for improving relationships between couples, to improve the relationship with your child it’s helpful to identify and understand the way your child gives and receives love. What makes one child feel loved and valued may not work for another.
Your child may feel loved by receiving:
- Words of affirmation, including compliments, praise, quotes, written notes, and texts recognizing all that they do well.
- Quality time, including active listening, pre-planned activities, and infusing time spent together with meaningful attention and consistency.
- Gifts, such as picking up his or her favorite treat from the store, flowers in a favorite color, something he or she has had their eye on for a while, or anything that demonstrates that you know and see your child.
- Acts of service, including help with chores or homework, involvement in their projects and hobbies, and doing something thoughtful, such as preparing their favorite meal.
- Physical touch, such as hugs, pats on the back, kisses, and time spent in close physical proximity like cuddling or back-scratching while watching a movie.
4. Have Boundaries
Structure creates safety for children, and the safer your child feels, the easier it will be to relax and let loose in your presence. It may seem counterintuitive, but clear and consistent boundaries in your home and in your relationship help your child know what to expect and when.
Boundaries allow your child to understand what is acceptable and what is not, where he or she stands in household responsibilities, and to avoid conflict and unpredictability. Children that know what is expected of them experience less stress and a greater sense of harmony.
5. Eliminate Distractions
One of the primary causes of perceived distance in relationships is not the quantity of time spent together, but the quality. If you are frequently found answering emails on your phone or scrolling through social media in the presence of your child, it will be hard to feel connected and close to you, despite being in the same room.
Some parents find it helpful to designate screen-free spaces or times. For some, their child’s bedroom is a no-screens-allowed zone, while for others it may be more helpful to power down devices during a two-hour period after school. During that time, stay present and involved with your child. Your child knows that you lead a busy life, so when your child feels like a priority to you, they will feel important, loved, and valued.
6. Create Routines
Consistency invites security, an incredibly important component of a healthy connection. If you have more than one child, pencil in some quality time with each of them. Children benefit greatly from having their own special connection with a parent. Whether it’s a regularly scheduled “date night” with your child, a project dedicated to a shared interest, or a one-on-one trip to the park, parent-child rituals create memories to last a lifetime and show your child that you value who he or she is on an individual level.
Strengthening and maintaining a relationship with your child after divorce won’t always be easy, but it’s important to stay consistent and dedicated. Children don’t need perfect parents, they just need parents that love them, and the way you show that love can set them up for a lifetime of elevated self-esteem, positive regard, and personal success, both in your relationship and out.