As a parent, it’s a hard moment when you realize that the child you cherish has become distant to you. However, your relationship can be turned around, and the younger your child is, the easier it will be to get things back on track. Before you start having nightmares about your child turning into an out-of-control teen with purple hair, multiple piercings and a bad attitude, take some steps now to make the relationship better.
Spend Time Together
Set aside time as often as possible — every day would be ideal — to do things with your child that he enjoys. Swimming, reading books, playing a simple board game or playing at the park are some simple ideas. Just ensure that the quality time with your child is enjoyable for him as well. While you might think a game of volleyball or shopping for new shoes for your preschooler will be fun for him, it doesn’t mean that’s actually his idea of a good time. Spend some time doing what HE likes to do.
Use Open-ended Statements
Rather than peppering your child with questions about her day, her friends or her feelings, use open-ended statements to get your kid to open up. For example, if she mentions that her best friend at preschool yanked a toy away from her, you could say, “Wow, that would hurt my feelings if it happened to me.” This way you’re inviting her to share her own feelings if she wants to without putting her on the spot with questions she doesn’t want to answer or doesn’t have the words for.
Choose Your Battles
If your relationship with your child is strained, it’s especially important to remember to maintain perspective. Not every fight is worth having. If your child is really dead set on wearing a blue sweatshirt instead of the red sweatshirt you picked out for him, does it really matter? Let kids have a say on matters that aren’t a big safety or discipline issue.
Ask your child, casually and without pressure, if she’d like to join you when you’re doing certain activities that you would previously have done alone. For example, if you usually wait to go to the library until your partner comes home to keep your child company, ask your child if she’d like to go to the library with you. Rather than doing an exercise video before she wakes up, see whether she’d be interested in bopping around the living room with you.
What to Avoid
No one, child or adult, likes to feel as though they are being interrogated. Don’t fire questions at your child non-stop. Be there and be open when he wants to talk, but don’t press. When your child does come to you with a problem, don’t immediately jump in and start offering suggestions and solutions. Sometimes people just want to vent or complain, without having a parent step in and take control.