Some may read the title and think, “well of course, I already do that.” If so, great! Nonetheless, I want to introduce another element to this that may be helpful.
You see, investing in a relationship with your child can take many forms. Because you, as parents, play such a crucial role in their life, it’s important not to put this off. So let’s break it down into three categories; interests, questions, and listening.
Getting to know your child’s interests can be a great way to build the relationship. Now I don’t just mean the stuff we value as adults, I mean everything. Whether it’s sports, video games, movies, shows, apps, art, music, fashion, or any other thing that young people engage with, it’s important to do your research.
These may not be things that you enjoy or care for, but learning about them serves two purposes. First, you can carry a conversation with your child about these topics; some of which may be a passion of theirs. Second, you start to learn what other forces are attempting to influence your child.
There are a lot of competing voices out in the world today; some of which may not be instilling the values you want your child to uphold. It can be overwhelming to keep track of all the trends and topics, but doing your homework here will prove extremely useful. In doing so, you start building a bridge while protecting them from harm.
Asking questions is helpful, but asking the right questions is fundamental. What do I mean by this? Well, the questions a parent asks can be the difference between conversation and a one word answer.
So, if we desire an extended conversation, the way we frame our questions is important. This requires moving past the routine questions and getting creative. Be directed and specific.
Instead of asking how their day was, ask what made them laugh the hardest or what the most difficult thing they had to do was. These questions are specific enough to avoid the usual “good” or “fine,” but open-ended enough to touch on all aspects of their day. From there, focus on asking good follow up questions.
This goes hand in hand with the previous point. Without genuine listening there can be no genuine dialog. So take a moment to sit with each answer or question that your child comes to you with.
As parents, you have this beautiful desire to fix issues immediately. It’s ingrained in you to protect your child in this way. However, this can get you into trouble.
It’s important to hear the entire story before giving a solution. If not, the child may feel dismissed; which can lead to feeling burdensome on their parents. Young people just want to feel known and, if it isn’t by you, they may grasp at other things that momentarily fill that void.
Now, as I shared in the last blog, I say all this as an unmarried man with no children. From that perspective, I have little to no credibility on this topic. However, in my 24 years on this earth, I’ve learned a lot from my relationship with my own parents.
Let this serve as an encouragement to take what is useful and push forward. You may not get the credit you deserve for all your hard work and sacrifices, but know that it doesn’t go unnoticed. Thank you, parents, for all that you do!