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Connecting with your child, teen,or young adult child. What’s that look like?!

By: Evan Simmons,MA

Tips for connecting with your child, teen, or young adult child; a follow up from last weeks blog.

Talk with them, not at them:

So often, parents confuse lecturing their child and telling them about their success and failures with actually talking to them. Remember, having a conversation with someone involves talking AND listening. Be present when you "talk" and make sure you allow your child to explain what they are proud of, interested in, or have difficulties with. The things you hear may be tough to swallow or something you as a parent may not know how to handle, but to be able to listen without judging or blaming is a solid first step in connecting with your child. It may not be easy at first but with reciprocal communication comes a sense of security between child and parent and something you both will value as they grow older.

Participate in activities together:

Whether it be one on one, with family, or with others, invite your child to do things with you. It can be as small as going to get gas, going to the grocery store, or going for a walk. Obviously, depending on your likes and dislikes as a person and parent, the activities will vary. Be prepared in advance that your child may tell you "No thank you" or just "NO", 99% of the time. It's natural that as they grow into teens, children desire more independence from their parents. However, to know that their parents want to do things with them is comforting and safe on a deeper level and it shows your child you have a genuine interest in them. On the same note, ask your child what they want to do and set aside time to participate in activities that interest them. Again don't be discouraged if they don't seem interested, things will turn around over time. There may even be a point in which you plan something that you think they would be interested in and make it a surprise. They may seem upset with you and not into it at first, but you will see that if you take the time to do something that interests them and it's genuinely about them, not you, that they are grateful.

Hold yourself accountable:

Know that your kids are watching you like a hawk. For every action of theirs that you have commented on or corrected, know that they have analyzed at least two of yours. It's Important to hold your children accountable for the things they say they are going to do, but it is also important to check yourself as a parent. If you want your child to follow your rules and follow through with school work and commitments, model for them the appropriate way to act. For example, if you tell your child you will be somewhere, be there! Yes, life happens and sometimes our plans are foiled by outside forces and things come up, but the key is consistency. Be consistent and show up more often then not when you say you will. If there is a chance you could miss a future event or a plan you made, tell your child in advance. They will be more understanding than you think if you communicate with them that it is a goal of yours to at least try, and your intentions feel genuine. Like I discussed last week, if your child feels and genuinely senses you are making an honest effort, they will be more likely to accept your flaws as you have learned to accept theirs. A big factor is being present and aware of your involvement in your kid's lives. If you consistently aren't there or break promises to your kids then you need to be honest with yourself, and acknowledge your connection building will have to start with reestablishing trust. To accomplish this may take time, but hold yourself accountable and begin to be more involved in the lives of your child, teen, or young adult child.

Sample activities:

• Tell your child you love them, no matter how old they are!

• Find out the names of your child's friends, teachers, coaches, etc.

• For young children- read stories, tell stories, make up stories. Engage in imaginative play.

•Take your child to the skate park, art studio, dance studio, park, etc. AND watch them play and interact with their friends or acquaintances. Don't be afraid to participate. Humility is a great quality to have as a parent.

•Take them alone or with others to a sporting event, show, movie, etc... and let them help plan it.

•Teach your child at any age to cook. Whether it be BBQ or in the kitchen, allow them to help you cook and teach them your "secrets".

•Do homework with them. Be humble and let them teach you something you may have forgotten or not been interested in.

•Create "family time" even if it's only a 30 minute period each day or every other day. (board games, talking, hiking,etc)

 •Spend time with opposite gendered children doing things that interest them. (i.e. Dads: go shopping with daughters, take them to get their nails done, talk to their mom or other moms about ideas to suit your daughter. Moms: go to a sporting event, do something active, make a mess painting, talk to dad or other dads about ideas that suit your son)

 • Go away from home and the "normal" routines. This does not have to be costly or every day. Take the family for a day trip,(i.e. beach, mountains, a different city, or even a local park) or even out to dinner, change it up a bit.

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