Confession: Some days it seems like the only communication I have with my kids is to yell at them. Did you finish your homework? Did you complete your chores? Please put down the phone. At the end of those days, I don’t feel good about myself or where my relationship with my kids is headed.
We don’t always equate our health with our relationships, but why not when study after study comes out reminding us that relationships can reduce stress and have been linked to overall improved health. A recent study revealed one of the best ways to make ourselves feel healthier is to surround ourselves with loving relationships.
The relationship we have with our kids is an important one to foster. According to Child and Adolescent Psychologist Amy Parks, “when parents work on connecting more than correcting we are teaching our children ways to express themselves in a more positive way.”
So how do we develop a deeper connection with our kids? And one that not only benefits us by feeling healthier and happier, but also benefits the children too. We’ve got to dig a little deeper and redefine healthy parenting to find ways to connect that feel good to us and them.
Three simple tips to create a better connection with your kids:
1. Create rituals with your kids
According to clinical psychologist Tara Cousineau establishing small rituals with your children can go a long way over time. It doesn’t need to be anything formal, it can be pizza as a family every Friday night or phones and laptops get shut down from 6-7 p.m. The one ritual we do is cook a meal together. I know I feel stressed when all the cooking falls on me, so I enlist the help of my three teenagers. Cooking together gives us the opportunity to participate as a team with the goal of enjoying a tasty meal. Meal prep also gives us a chance to chat, which leads us to number 2.
2. Have “side by side conversations with your kids”
Sometimes the face-to-face dialog seems too intense for kids, especially tweens and teens, Cousineau says. Try using the the side conversation, like while driving or walking or running errands. Some of the best conversations occur on the way to dance class or karate. You would be surprised what conversations occur in a 10-minute car ride if you let them.
3. Create a more positive conversation
Don’t ask boring questions, especially to kids. As adults, we can use our imaginations too. Think of specific and positive conversation starters like, “Tell me one thing you really liked about today” or “What was the most fun part of your day?” When we ask our kids questions in a positive manner, we are training them to see the good things about the day, and in turn the kids are more likely to share their stories with us. Sometimes, I need to start and share what was fun about my day in order to get the conversation rolling.
Remember, we want to keep the lines of communication open, so that if our children need us, we are available and ready to listen. I know I feel better when I’m not nagging my children, but rather talking with my children and that’s what I call a #RedefiningHealthy moment.