A strong parent-child relationship is the best way to stay connected with your kids during all stages of their life. But parenting is a tough and time-consuming job and you may not have time to sit down and engage with them as often as you would like. Ongoing stress in parent-child relationship can contribute to negative attention seeking behaviors and emotional regulation issues. Connecting with your children can offer a solid foundation for their emotional wellness and better the relationship that you have with.
But how do you connect with your children or teens emotionally?
1) Invest time and effort
If you want to develop emotional intimacy with your children, spare the time and make a conscious effort to engage with them.
- Unplug from all forms of distractions—work, house chores, technology, and anything else that will prevent you from being in the moment with them.
- Look directly in their eyes when communicating with them. This shows that you are truly listening, and your full attention is on them.
- Ask questions that will lead the conversation to deeper aspects of your child’s true self.
- What can we do to support you in this situation?
- What makes you feel happy?
- What are you angry or sad about?
- What is making you feel scared?
- What are the activities you enjoy a lot?
2) Engage in their interests
It’s not enough to simply ask the right questions. The steps you take after you learn the answers can make a huge difference.
If your child tells you that one of their greatest joys is to watch their favorite music band live, show an interest in that band. If you really want to know who your children are, you need to be interested in their life.
3) Express your emotions with your children
What better way to show your children how to be emotionally intimate with you than to do the same with them? Lead by example.
When you share your emotions, your children will feel safer sharing their emotions with you regardless if they experience positive or negative feelings. If you’re willing to be vulnerable emotionally, they will reciprocate. Just be mindful that if they are emotionally flooded, their emotional regulation support is the priority. Once they are calm, you will have an opportunity to discuss your feelings.
4) Create a safe space for your children to express themselves emotionally
Don’t demand that they tell you what the matter is or blurt out “what’s wrong with you?” This is the quickest way to create a judgmental and controlling space, something that is sure to make your children close off from you.
5) Ask your children what they want to do
As a parent, you have a lot more life experience than your children and so you are more likely to direct them towards what you think they need.
But your real job is to guide them and scaffold their decision-making process. So, ask them questions to better understand their thought process, and then share helpful options that they could consider. If they don’t select any of these options, sometimes they need to experience natural consequences as part of their learning.
Teens are especially resistant if they’re told what to do because they naturally want to become more independent. The best recourse is to ask, and then provide guidance.
Develop emotional intimacy with your kids while they’re still young, and they’ll let you in on every stage of their life. This connection will be the foundation of your relationship with them.